Nilüfer Yanya: Miss Universe review – A clear new vision

Fri, Mar 22, 2019, 05:00

   
 

Album:
Miss Universe

Artist:
Nilüfer Yanya

Label:
ATO Records

Genre:
R&B / Soul

Adorning the cover of Miss Universe, the debut album from Nilüfer Yanya – a 23-year-old west Londoner generating a buzz in the underground scene – are contrasting images of the singer-songwriter. One image presents an ethereal guise, the other a hardened exterior. As if by osmosis, this duality has seeped into these 17 eclectic tracks.

Opening with Yanya’s voice, masked as an automated message, enlightens listeners to the realm they’re about to enter; “There is a sense of being watched. There is a sense of being followed.” It’s a bleak picture, not unlike Black Mirror’s foretold vision of mass paranoia. However, Yanya’s sonic palette colours anxiety with a comforting array of pastel hues.

The mid-section, bookended with Paradise and Safety Net, is where the magic reveals itself. Often incorporating off-kilter guitar tones akin to Steve Lacy’s DIY style, this soundscape perfectly complements Yanya’s timbre. Over the course of these tracks, she halts hefty indie instrumentation (In Your Head) for sumptuously smooth R&B arrangements and velvety harmonies heard on Baby Blu, Miss Universe’s most ambitious song.

Fortunately, Yanya’s clear artistic vision manages to harness the many ideas on display.