Album: Luwten – Draft review

by Chris Hatch

Channelling traditional indie songwriting through a kaleidoscope of modern pop and R&B experimentation, Luwten’s trump card is her impeccable sense of pace, as she shows a metronomic control of timing and groove that courses through the record

The recording name for Dutch artist, Tessa Douwstra, Luwten means ‘a place with no wind’ – and it’s in that vacuum that the musician and producer melds the mechanics of modern hip-hop and R&B with the looseness and warmth of indie music to create a tight, skittering heartbeat around which the album finds its tempo.

Opening track, The Thought Of You, takes its pulse from a simple acoustic guitar line and distant, bubbling percussion – a soulful chorus swells against the track’s scant backing. ‘These signals in my brain/They make me think of you,’ sings Luwten, reducing emotion down to a chemical reaction. It’s the chrysalis of an idea that opens up as the album unfolds – the songwriter tries to make sense of feelings and relationships at their base level; the firing of synapses triggered by the chunky, electronic boom-clap of Control, the spacious, stately slow groove soul of Standstill, or by the jerky, acoustic tick-tock of Sleeveless.

There are parts of Draft that sound almost architectural – sparse and inorganic, like concrete, steel, and glass. Take the creeping, trip-hoppy Don’t Be A Stranger, which is propelled along by a mix of deep bass, distant, skipping drums, and disembodied chimes. It could sound cold and unwelcoming, but Douwstra’s voice has a slightly husky burr that brings colour and warmth. That warmth is turned up on Call Me In. The most stripped back offering on the record, a guitar and vocal track that sees Douwstra take a deep breath and demonstrate her deft touch and dreamlike vocals. The faint, background bustle of tweeting birds and distant traffic making it feel all the more like a pit stop amongst the pulsating propulsion of the rest of the record.

There are few albums that come with as much confidence and certainty as Draft. Luwten has managed to fuse both sides of her musicality – the basic, bare-bones of good songwriting, with an experimentation and expansiveness in production that manages to add a groove and a kinesis to the record without being intrusive.

In the space between the assured thud of its heartbeat, Draft is filled with pockets of exciting experimentation, artistic endeavour, and unashamed pop moments. A collection of enthralling, inventive songs with the ability to win over the underground, and the potential to crossover to the mainstream.

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