South London Soulstress J.A.E. Debuts | With or Without 

 Evan Dale // Dec 20, 2019 

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South London Neo-Soulstress, J.A.E. has spent 2019 making a name for herself. Debuted by throw-back single, Poison, what started as a year painted by her 90’s R&B roots slowly developed into an exhibition of her jazz-founded take on Neo-Soul. It’s only fitting she calls home to London. Neo-Soul itself seems to bubble from the floorboards of every UK club with a jukebox. And like her London kin, J.A.E. is uniquely exploring the young styling’s network as one of the modern world’s most influential and timeless sounds. To close out a calendar year that has done a remarkable job introducing J.A.E.’s name far beyond South London’s reach, her debut project, With or Without, paints a picture of what’s to come. 


What’s to come is a gentle, imperfect aesthetic as impervious to time as it is painfully attached to emotion. It’s Neo-Soul for the Soul fan with a floaty foundation of jazz and organic instrumentation that finds its way into the heart of anyone listening. In many ways, the entire project feels like a single live session. It’s raw, it’s gorgeous, and it’s the most tradition-rooted Neo-Soul project to come out this year.


The softness of J.A.E.’s vocal delivery allows coalescence with the surrounding keys, basslines, and drums. It comes together not in the way that many modern vocalists thrust their voices forward, but instead in balance with its surrounding textures. And that balance never gets lost in progression. Tracks like Poison that offer more of a mainstream R&B bubbliness bring forward J.A.E.’s vocals hand-in-hand with 90’s-reminiscent production and a rap verse from Dotty. Tracks like Love Me Right that exude chimes and wavy keystrokes also allow J.A.E. to turn up the explosions in her still subtle range. And most tracks, like Take Me To and On The Road, remain subtle, balanced, and harmonious in the kind of calming range that highlight late night jazz clubs and vintage Motown vinyl. 


From top to bottom, With or Without is a thesis on balance in music and how the timelessness of instrumentation is as strong as ever in the hands of London’s Neo-Soul spectrum. Keep an eye out for J.A.E. heading into 2020 as one of the most promising up-and-coming acts not only in London; not only in Neo-Soul; but in music at large.