Dutch producer and songwriter The Child Of Lov is an artist deeply in love with soul music and its ability to warp itself into many different forms, whether it’s in abstract idiosyncratic hip-hop as evidenced by progressive producers like Madlib and J Dilla, or in the future soul shock of enigmatic performers like Prince and D’Angelo. That brilliant sound of abstract oblique soul has influenced The Child Of Lov to create an intriguingly beguiling debut that is by turns experimental and richly engaging.
The Child Of Lov is Amsterdam-based Cole Williams and it is his auteur-like vision, cultivated from years of studying how these masters of production and songwriting applied their skills to key works that gives this debut its striking sense of coherence and lucidity. Admittedly, collaborators have helped to refine Williams’ vision. The album was recorded at Damon Albarn’s 13 studios in London and the Blur and Gorillaz front man’s guidance plays a key role on the record, helping with production and providing vocals on the allusive dark hearted groove of One Day. As well as Albarn the record features contributions from Flying Lotus affiliated bass maestro Thundercat and rapper and producer DOOM. All these hook ups were facilitated by Trey Reames, an ultra-connected manager responsible for the formation of Gnarls Barkley. Under Reames’ guidance, it has been quite a rise for The Child Of Lov.
The debut album itself sounds wonderful in a strictly musical sense. Neither reverent to the past nor impenetrably experimental, it skilfully veers between abstract distorted hip-hop sounds and some classic soul music tropes. Perhaps the most beguiling instrument used among many though is Cole Williams’ voice itself. It is unclear whether it is something of a pastiche of a weathered soul veteran that has been around the block or the product of a young man, channelling the sound of his influences through his own idiosyncratic filter. Either way, the voice is prominent throughout. On opener Call Me Up, his gloopy tones combine with a languorous beat to create a rich and warm sound. On the stuttering space funk of Living The Circle his voice jitters and sparks with nervous kinetic energy as the words are almost spat out. It’s a spellbinding kind of hip-hop from another planet.
There is a lovely balance at work here between low-slung funk grooves and energised beefed up moments. Heal is enlivened by insistent fat bass and huge dirty fuzzy synth stabs. It’s almost Funkadelic-like in its overall quality. Give Me shares a similar dirty groove, Williams’ voice takes on a sleazy falsetto, giving it a distorted mildly psychedelic feel. Elsewhere, the self-mythologizing Warrior pares things back to a Prince-like weirded-out jam. It’s on this track that The Child Of Lov outlines his unique persona proclaiming: “I am the deepest vein, I am a hurricane, I am a child of love.” Owl, featuring DOOM, is perhaps the most arresting moment here, with DOOM’s harsh and direct rap verse providing a diverting contrast to the cinematic spaghetti western vibe of the twang of plucked guitars.
If there is any negative to offset the brilliant musicality of the album, perhaps it is that The Child Of Lov’s idea of soul is rather abstract. It’s unclear who the real Cole Williams is. The album lacks any sort of heartfelt personable quality. It’s debateable though whether this is even necessary. It’s only recently that Williams revealed himself as the man behind The Child Of Lov. The lack of introspective revelation is part of the whole mystique, and this debut album offers a striking first glimpse into The Child Of Lov’s bewitching melting pot of sounds.