Toronto's Terrell Morris Blooms with Transcendence Throughout 'Lavender'
Evan Dale // Oct 9, 2020
Some albums echo culminatory breadth. They’re the types of projects that rely on slow build and consistent musicianship in harmony with one another. And though that process is the most natural exhibition of music through time, it’s an achievement that often goes unnoticed in a modern scene prioritizing quantity over quality; pace over process. And yet, when you hear the amalgamate genius of a project explored through years of mastery, growth, and ultimate coalescence, there’s something immediately noticeable in its differentiated aesthetic. Think about albums from artists like Kendrick Lamar or Frank Ocean. Two of the greatest musicians to ever pursue their respective crafts often go years without a drop, shying away from the limelight in the process to hone their art in a protected, cultivating sphere. Now take the aesthetics of Kendrick and Frank – the unattainably poetic, the vibrantly experimental, the socially dictated – the vocally crystalline, the timelessly transcendent, the motivated by movement – and blend their approaches into something more stylistically fluid, yet every bit as unique – and what you’ll be left with is the dynamic mosaic that is Toronto’s Terrell Morris.
He’s not a new name. A consistent guest collaborative with fellow Torontonians, Free N Losh who utilize the fluidity in his delivery to their jazz-oriented advantage, Terrell Morris has been a front man of his own music and that of others for a few years. In fact, his three debut singles: Pretty Life, Me 4 Prez, and Oak – which led to the greater drip of Molasses – came hand-in-hand with Free N Losh before he dropped, also in 2018, the leading single for what his now his second full-length collection.
But this time is different. Where Molasses was a cohesive exploration of his intersection with Free N Losh, Lavender – though still featuring his favorite jazzy duo – is a Terrell Morris project through and through. And in that underlining delineation, it breathes of the range he’s been establishing and widening since the beginning.
More recently, Play The Fool and ROXY also paved a path towards Lavender with bricks cast in golden range. The prior is an exploration of a mellow, acoustic, understated corner in Morris’ melodically focused direction, while the latter, a high-energy, lyrically intensive bit of hip-hop and soul transcendence that doesn’t sidestep his affinity for vocals but folds the more rap-oriented glimpse into his aesthetic. Tethered also with Field Test: a juxtaposing jazz and lyrical bout, the bookending bounds of his floral project are set. And within them, Morris blooms.
Hand-in-hand with the singles, six new inclusions build on and refine within the rangy Terrell Morris foundation, fusing into a polished product best described not as bass-heavy hip-hop or smooth, jazzy soul, but an altogether new invention that tightropes the grey areas of each and every noun and adjective in this sentence. But, let’s just call it Lavender.
The Lavender aesthetic is broad and relatively unpredictable. It floats between two different pillars rooted in one another but does so without ever committing to the tenets of jazz or hip-hop’s history. Instead, it’s a liquid look into Terrell Morris’ individuality – one that founded in jazz and hip-hop, but sources too from everything else that modern jazz and hip-hop touch. Essentially, what we’re saying is that Lavender is an exploration of it all.
The bare-bones, old-school, rap-over-the-sax intro that is Winterfalls; the hard-hitting hip-hop anthem that is This Woods; the Kaytranada and GoldLink reminiscent house-hop hit that is Got The Love; the snapping sensual slow jam that is Twiss Up; the ethereal, emotional, atmospheric vibe that is Renaissance; the elated, honest, indefinable outro that is Lavender Dreams. Top-to bottom, Lavender dissects at great detail the myriad influence of Terrell Morris’ gamut, and shines a light on why this solo debut has taken years to come to fruition. Each and every lane he pursues is one he pursues with perfection, energy, and uniqueness, painting a picture not of an artist, but of an individual that, like any other, is more than just one thing – one sound. Instead, Morris is a patchwork of musical lanes, and through the process of learning how to convey them all differently, finds his truest strength – Lavender’s deepest hue – in drawing them akin for a half-hour of bliss in the assimilation of sonic texture under a single umbrella of transcendence.