You can only write what you know. In music, defining your sound traces back to who you are, and what you know. Melbourne artist, Xylo Aria conveys a unique stance for herself by layering R&B melodies, ambience, and an electronic feel, paired with her adenoidal and smoky voice. Her debut EP, Arrow, produced by Elliot Treves, creates a humanesque atmosphere, and worldly touch that slowly lulls you in for a second take.
The magic behind these well-trained placement of sounds, comes from Aria’s influence growing up, surrounded by classical Indian Carnatic music. Never would Carnatic music be used in the same sentence as R&B, in my opinion, yet with Aria it becomes so clear, it is in fact genius. Aria has revived contemporary R&B from the soul. Whether you strip it down from any root, R&B contains soul, which Carnatic music carries heavy amounts, in its simplicity and vocal focus. Aria’s vocals contain power, yet never overpowers the melody, and strategically balances the shift of power between the two.
On the track “Arrow,” the slow-tempo melody didn’t seem to stand out compared to others, when in fact the focus was on Aria’s vocals and lyrics. The ability for Aria to play and guide the emotions with her vocals showcased the spirit of her Carnatic influence. Whereas on the track “Mr. Biggs,” the melody stole the spotlight with its insanely catchy R&B flow and controlled vocals in the chorus.
Aria proves that she isn’t shy towards experimenting with sounds or pushing the limit of diversity on her pallet, which is heard immensely on “Colours.” The track instrumentally swallows a listener when trying to pinpoint distinction between sounds, which proves it’s better to not think, and allow the track to take its course. “Colours’” use of industrial beats, mixed with the softness of classical keys, creates a haunting effect, and overwhelming sense of being human, or as Aria vividly puts it, “You are like the colours, / That have all run out.” Being one of the better crafted tracks of emotion and melody.
Wrapping up Aria’s creation, the artist’s views on the environment become vocal on the last track, “The Hurt,” where all proceeds towards the EP go directly to Greenpeace Australia Pacific, where Aria comments that, “it would be amazing if my music can help conserve nature in some small way.” Lyrically the track expresses what we are doing to the planet, in a self-reflective point of view, while musically, the smoothness of sounds and down-tempo ambience is beautiful on it’s own. Aria shines with her honesty and unselfish attitude that digs deeper into sounds than I could’ve imagined, and breaks into a distinct voice, that connects and resonates.