Album of the Week: Jordan Rakei’s Origin is an impressive blend of art, technology, politics and soul

London-based Australian musician Jordan Rakei has just dropped his new album, Origin, his third, and first since the release of Wallflower back in 2017. 

Initially I came to this album on a bit of a whim, unfamiliar with Rakei’s past output, but drawn in by plaudits from the likes of Robert Glasper and Terrace Martin. I’m glad I took the plunge. Origin flits and flutters between several genres, namely the realms of soul, R’n’B, and electronica. It’s bright, bold, catchy as hell, all whilst cleverly and critically engaging with the modern (and post-modern) world. 

Despite Origin’s big, bright and bold tone, the album is influenced by more dystopian visions of the world and the future, with Rakei drawing inspiration from the likes of Black Mirror, The Handmaid’s Tale and Twin Peaks. Many of the album lyrics explore the rapid technological growth we’ve experienced, and the way in which that growth affects our sense of humanity. “Say Something”, for example, is “about speaking up for what you believe in”, whilst also working as a call to arm for future humans to stand up against AI systems which govern a now dystopian world. It does all this whilst remaining a delightful slice of neo-soul. It’s an impressive act of juxtaposition, and one which typifies the album as a whole. 

Origin is effectively the spoonful of sugar to help listeners digest the critical and important message contained within the lyrics. On Origin, Rakei has turned his songwriting gaze outwards, moving away from introspection towards something which is political, yet in no way dogmatic or polemical. It’s music to soundtrack the moment we find ourselves, with time quickly running out to deal with climate change and with others rushing headlong into technological changes with scant consideration for its potential impacts. “Minds Eye”, for example, envisions a future world where malfunctioning tech is implanted into the human body, flooding the users mind with projections of chaos.

Playful, clever and compelling, Origin is an impressive third outing from the London-based Australian. It’s refreshing too to see that the concept album is still alive and well in the age of streaming and downloads. This is an album that rewards multiple listens, with the tracks offering up extra little tidbits and secrets on each subsequent listen. 

FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Jordan Rakei’s new album Origin is available now – grab your copy HERE. Rakei will also be hitting up Australia in August (tour dates below). For more information and tickets head HERE

Aug 17th | The Triffid – Brisbane, QLD
Aug 19th | Melbourne Recital Hall – Melbourne, VIC
Aug 21st | The Metro – Sydney, NSW

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Simon Clark

Simon Clark is the Books Editor at the AU review. A reader of books and admirer of songs, Simon has a PhD in English and Comparative Literature. All errant apostrophes are his, and his alone. You can find him on Twitter and Instagram at @simonjclark

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