Alxndr London's IVMERIN is an Experimental Coalescence of his Roots
Evan Dale // Aug 11, 2019
In a merging world of West African Cultural Renaissance, London-rooted Neo-Soul, Jazz, and electronic, Alxndr London crafts his intricacies as the most vibrant experimentation for a cloth cut of future coalescence between them all. Scribblings of Yoruba influence have helped write his greater story from the beginning, but with I V M E R I N, his latest project mirroring the relative length and structure of his prior three annuals, 2016’s A Long Time Ago, 2017’s Today, and 2018’s 2023, the dive into his roots is deeper and more forwardly expressive than ever before.
It’s a timely stylistic choice. As the world has become swiftly inundated with cultural inspiration rooted heavily in Ghanaian and Nigerian art and design in all its forms, artists from West Africa, the Caribbean, and the UK in particular have grabbed ahold of the region’s explosively unique delineations and brought them seamlessly into modernity. But no one – truthfully speaking through any of the lanes in which he dabbles – has ever sounded quite like Alxndr London. And even for him and when weighed against his prior releases, I V M E R I N is undeniably different.
As a composition, it enthralls. An encapsulating, wholesome collection designed to be listened to in full, I V M E R I N is especially reflective and reminiscent of 2023. It’s a telling exploration of the wavering emotion, rooted inspirations, and artistic genius abundant in London’s mind. And akin to all of our minds if we were so innately coherent enough to translate them into art, his is incredibly complex.
There is a quick sense of rising and shifting that drives the project as a tour through London’s many stylistic lanes. From the opener, O Ti Bere (Yoruba for It Begins) I V M E R I N is obviously an exploration of his Nigerian blood. Highlighted with a moving oration by way of poetic Dylema, it sets a trichotomy of intensive, emotive, and hopeful starting points that become permanently instilled in all tracks to follow. And yet, while intensity, emotion, and a touch of light-heartedness lie beneath the foggy mire of each song, their stylistic makeup differ greatly.
By the time Mama Said takes the reigns as the projects second track, London dives deep into his long-established affinity for experimental electronic production, lacing the explosive breakdowns with strained falsettos and energetic cadence. Visions of his trancey performance for YouTube’s COLORS series are hard to avoid before being quickly followed by another brash change of pace.
Explorations as the most indefinable figure of the Neo-Soul era ensue, highlighting Father Blue, Yellow Hat, and Roll Safe with vocal exhibitions and instrumental prowess, while introducing what is probably the most digestible stretch of I V M E R I N. Digestibility, however, is relative. There’s nothing mainstream about the meat of I V M E R I N’s lineup – and even less about the rest of it. Instead, the three tracks are London’s vision of a future auditory aesthetic grounded in Neo-Soul and jazz but boundless everywhere else. Father Blue, though coming in at under two minutes is quite possibly the most complex and interesting addition to the project’s greater course. Strewn with floaty effervescent production, ghostly falsetto displays, and quick, addicting bouts of our protagonist’s namesake, the trackis nothing if not a futuristic sonic soul dreamworld. Primed for widespread success, Yellow Hat follows. Exhibiting Alxndr London’s otherworldly falsetto at its peak, the track is an impossibly emotive hit exploring love and desire, but first and foremost, exploring the slower, instrumental arena of Neo-Soul’s most emotion-ridden exceptionality underneath London’s highly-experimental futurist lens. And it succeeds as what would probably be 2030’s biggest Soul-Inspired hit. Then, Roll Safe rides a Santana-esque guitar riff and colorful undertones into a dreamworld of classic rock intertwined with London’s one-of-a-kind lane.
And then, a turn back towards his Yoruba roots and the explosiveness of the West African Cultural Renaissance. Eq Basa and Talking Drum – London’s sole leading single en route to I V M E R I N – are both built on the foundations of traditional drum patterns merged with the unending myriad of UK-born electronica and garage. They’re bizarre, enticing, and completely encompassing. Layers upon layers of vocalism, drums, instrumentation, electronic production, and a pseudo-spoken-word verse from Louis Xl make the two tracks perhaps the most experimentally-nuanced and eventually influential from the entire collection.
Along with the inclusion of Talking Drum in I V M E R I N also comes a video. Surprisingly enough for someone as stylishly-striking, visually-centered, and fashionably-futuristic as Alxndr London, Talking Drum is actually his music video premiere. And it, too, is incredible. An expected cinematic production – eye-opening, unavoidably gorgeous, and intense, Talking Drum has our vote for the greatest video of the year so far. In tow with other UK and West African stars on the rise – Kojey Radical, Adekunle Gold, Rema, Santi, and D’Prince – the explorations of cinematography are seemingly every bit as important to the West African Cultural Renaissance as fashion, photography, visual art, and music. Strewn with blinding color, emotion-evoking settings, and the richest fashion sense we’ve come to expect from Alxndr London,Talking Drum lives up not only to the greatness of I V M E R I N but to London’s entire rise.
Everything about I V M E R I N is indicative that Alxndr London, nearly half-a-decade into a career slowly but steadily being enveloped by the public eye has had no issue remaining dazzlingly experimental. As each of his releases and his ever out-there clothing choices lay foundations for music, art, fashion, and now cinematography, he continues to evolve ahead of us all, drawing with him a smooth line to follow into a future bound in boundlessness, drowned in creativity.