London-based soul singer Kwabs is actually from Ghana and his real name is Kwabena Sarkodee Adjepong. He studied Jazz at the Royal Academy of Music in London and was part of a reality TV show. And then a few years ago he uploaded a video on youtube with his version of Corinne Bailey Rae‘s hit song “Like A Star”. And finally, he ended up releasing two EPs which are now followed by his debut album “Love + War”.
Kwabs is not your typical soul or r&b singer – his sound reminds me of a lot of 80s and 90s alternative brit bands like The Human League or even some Depeche Mode and the like. The synthesizer arrangements on most of the tracks on his album are very 80s like, like on “Fight For Love”, a kind of Heaven 17 reminder which borrows a lot from the mid 80s pop charts in chorus and production. But there are more r&b-related cuts such as “Walk” where he his attractive baritone shines over a thick and voluptuous refrain.
His forte can clearly be found in the catchy hooks and effective production work. It’s all pretty enticing and sharp and leaves you humming several of the simple, yet prolific tunes. You just can’t run away from the infectious “Look Over Your Shoulder” for example. Halfway through the record, the tempo is slightly reduced for the string-laden “Perfect Ruin” which also has some cautiously pumping beats underneath.
Some material is on the cornier edge of things, like the heavy “Forgiven” or “Father Figure”. But the majority of the stuff on offer is quiet appealing in its unique blend of genres and the persuasive singing of Kwabs who also writes most of the material himself (with the help of several co-writers). Kudos also to include the wonderful retro keys and synths on the Cass Lowe-produced “Make You Mine”.
And he saves the best for last: the hymn-like and spiritual “Cheating On Me” is the album’s powerful closer. Kwabs continues his tour through Europe with three dates in Germany:
11/23 Berlin, Huxley’s Neue Welt
11/24 Hamburg, Mojo Club
11/27 Munich, Muffathalle