Kaleem Taylor and The Code are ‘Vague Detail’ and their Debut is Sharply Experimental
Evan Dale // June 7, 2021
For any lifelong fan of R&B, there is something instantaneously reminiscent in the auditory aesthetic of Kaleem Taylor. When you first hear his bleeding tone, it becomes apparent that though there’s simply never been a voice like his – one peculiarly denoted by an impossibly wide-ranging register bleeding with emotionality at every pitch – it never fails to at once feel oddly familiar. It’s his raw imperfection that leaves the UK vocalist’s voice as one that could have soundtracked anyone’s vices and vulnerabilities through any of Neo-Soul and R&B’s incandescent moments since the 80’s and 90’s. And it’s in that inherent timelessness that his newest project – a collaboration with moody, mysterious electro-R&B producer and vocalist, The Code – where Kaleem Taylor’s sound is not only reminiscent of the past, but signaling towards what the future of R&B may come to sound like with projects as bold and futuristically raw as Vague Detail.
The name is both that of the duo itself and their debut. A raw five track collection of retrofuturistic anthems on human – perhaps at times, nonhuman – connectivity and dysconnectivity, Vague Detail is an unwavering exploration of R&B’s past meeting its future beneath an acutely edited take on something almost – albeit never quite – really explored before. It’s that special something that comes towards the boundaries of R&B from the oft-blue production of The Code – and even more so, from his creative relationship with Kaleem Taylor. Progressingly morose synth chords aligning with mirroringly emotional lyricism, open Vague Detail to the poetics of ‘I’ve been playing with your heart like it’s not broken,’ cascading in immersive vulnerability towards ‘all the pieces I found you in still remain.’ And as the feels themselves not only remain once Vague Detail’s poignant opener, Broken, comes to a close, also remaining is an established direction for the duo’s collaborative intertwining: an all-too talented playboy with a raw, nearly lethal understanding of musical emotion in his voice meeting the sounds of a surgeon not only of production, but, too, of the interlocked point from where his role in this devastatingly mysterious EP also leaves him decidedly pulling at heartstring after heartstring to get what he wants from a listener.
That something – as we’ve already explored here – is emotional connectivity through music by exploring the timeless struggle of dysconnectivity with others – particularly when the sensitivities of sex and romance are pulled into focus. Unlike, however, their forefathers of Soul and Neo-Soul who laid the framework for the likes of Kaleem Taylor and The Code to so sharply blur the lines of Vague Detail, the work of this Electro-Soul duo, too, blurs the lines of stylistic exploration at every turn. Taking the timeless emotionality of Neo-Soul and R&B vocalism, poeticism, and merging it with the still emerging minimalism of ambient and synth stroke oriented electronic production, leaves Vague Detail in a league of their own – or at least alongside some very influential and still inchoate projects à la dreamwave beatmakers and R&B super talents. Think Sonder – comprised of Dpat, Atu, and Brent Faiyaz – and all of the experimental genius they’ve crafted merging their very different, yet fluidly cohesive lanes, and then have a listen to Vague Detail. Better yet, continue listening where we already left off:
Nobody Else continues a forward progression established in Vague Detail’s short but solemnly immersive introduction. With a deeper dive into the future-sex UK R&B aesthetic already woven into Broken, the Code introduces a percussive foundation and a whistle-ridden set of synth strokes that leave Nobody Else fleeced with late 80’s and early 90’s R&B-pop fusion nuance. It’s an introspective, emotion-provoking ballad that should soundtrack anyone’s tear-soaked, white wine fueled candlelight bubble baths. Specific? Yes. But, trust us, and try it.
And truthfully, try it with the rest of the project, too. A fan of R&B is a fan of the emotional responses that the music evokes in our day-to-day lives. And a fan of that emotional vulnerability will find a lot of reminiscent comfort, while at the same time, a whole lot of experimental newness in the interwoven artistic force of Kaleem Taylor and The Code. Both artists are such raw products of the past – raw R&B vocals, 80’s synths, 90’s drum patterns, and the timelessness of heartbroken penmanship – and yet both forge new paths not only in the respective stylistic lanes of R&B, Neo-Soul, Ambient, and Electronic, but more importantly, in the worldbuilding grey area spectrum of them blurred together; of them vaguely kaleidoscoped, still shining with details that remind us of our past, and point towards the sheen of electro-Soul’s future under the prominent influence of Vague Detail’s debut.