Chicago's Aaliyah Allah Drops Mellow, Romantic A-Side, B-Side EP, 'Flux/Flow'
Evan Dale // July 26, 2020
Cut with short track lengths, brimming with emotive effervescence, Aaliyah Allah’s new project, Flux/Flow is as definitive of her mysterious allure as it is a juxtaposing look into her meandering artistry. The Chicago soulstress is one of rare releases. Independent both in her lack of a label (she records it all from the comfort of her bedroom studio) and in the aesthetic of her sound, it’s hard to draw direct comparisons to her from anyone else in music. Instead, she’s a composite of influence; a mosaic of stylistic tiles that adorn themselves carefully and empathetically to the subtleties in her sound.
Per Flux/Flow, that sound is one embodied in beat by high fidelity chimes and mellow keystrokes; in voice by the cascading vocal runs of modern R&B; in tone by an eternal searching for emotions circling love and lust. In result, the project is a tumbling array of electronic production, occasional analogue instrumentation (get lost in the background bass on Lost in Translation), and the unmistakably quiet strength in her subdued register.
At only 13 minutes, Flux/Flow – like her canon at large – is an exhibition of the power in shortened cuts. But through seven quickfire songs, Aaliyah Allah somehow manages to avoid sounding like she released a collection of teasers, instead building beautifully immersive compositions at minimal length that fluidly flow in and out of one another to amalgamate as one tethered cohesion.
In many ways, the project feels like a mirrored A-Side, B-Side where the last song in the project’s first half, Flux, introduces the first of the project’s second, Flow. In splitting the titular tracks in the heart of the project’s lineup, its structure allows, even in such a short delivery, a grand scale of difference while working akin in compositional parts. Its A-Side – a warm, mellow thesis on the minimalism in her sound; Its B-Side – a more maximalist trio of bubbly anthems.
In its merging, the blending if In Flux and In Flow serves as a microcosm of the project at large. In Flux gives off the sort of energy that brims from concert intermissions for a star R&B headliner. Custom fit with heavy bass, mellow, dreamwave key progressions, and interwoven abstractions of Aaliyah Allah’s vocalism, it’s a floaty, atmospheric jam that supplies both meditative escape from the rest of the project and an underlying look into the project’s mastery of the minimally electronic in scope of production. In Flow serves as its juxtaposition, bringing in tow the energy of a star R&B headlining performance that follows an intermission. Working with a similar palette of bubbly, electro-soul production, Aaliyah Allah – with the harmonizing accompaniment of little sister, LaChina Solé – serves up the project’s most anthemic jam. In Flow is a Summery, bouncy, fluid take that breathes of its title to the fullest.
Alongside it, there are two (perhaps three) other tracks that feel like they could stand on their own as strong singles. After Empathy, both Lost in Translation and I’ll Be Yours (which is also featured on fellow Chicago independent, HXRY’s 2020 debut album, PIECE OF MIND) were singles leading towards Flux/Flow’s release. And both were strong reasons why we included Aaliyah Allah on our list of 25 Projects We Need in 2020. Thankfully, with our call for her release now checked off, we can ascertain that our wishes were founded in legitimacy, and simply focus on why. Both leading singles feel as though they were plucked from some unreleased goldmine of 90’s vocal samples and placed overtop the work of modern electronic producers, like KAYTRANADA & Sàngo, who specialize in laying the tracks for hip-hop & Neo-Soul’s brightest names. In effect, we were blown away by the professionalism in this young artist’s aesthetic and knew that music at large needed more.
And even in the shortest of her tracks, that breath of professionalism rings consistent. In full, Flux/Flow is arranged with what can be described as her full-length deliveries intertwined with intermissionary moments of accompanying brevity. The projects opener, Empathy introduces the project to come with Aaliyah Allah’s sweet soul and addicting dreamwave production before diving into the minute-long Homesick – a bop for sure, but a short to say the least. From there, the hit – the banger – goes one for one with the subdued intermission until it all comes to a close. And when it does, it’s pretty damn hard not to press repeat.