The title of Jamie Woon’s mesmerising second album is Making Time. “It’s the opposite of wasting time, and who, honestly, wouldn’t like a bit more time?” says the London singer-songwriter. It’s been four-and-half-years since the release of Jamie’s acclaimed debut, Mirrorwriting, an intimate and forward-thinking collection of R&B songs; and he’s been working ever since. With the release of Making Time, all of his patience and effort have paid off brilliantly in the shape of a great modern British soul record. Read More...
The title of Jamie Woon’s mesmerising second album is Making Time. “It’s the opposite of wasting time, and who, honestly, wouldn’t like a bit more time?” says the London singer-songwriter. It’s been four-and-half-years since the release of Jamie’s acclaimed debut, Mirrorwriting, an intimate and forward-thinking collection of R&B songs; and he’s been working ever since. With the release of Making Time, all of his patience and effort have paid off brilliantly in the shape of a great modern British soul record. Ten beautifully crafted, emotionally rich songs. No filler. Shades of Marvin Gaye, Lewis Taylor, D’Angelo and Massive Attack. A mysterious, moving and quietly profound album which unspools more of its secrets with every play.
“I’ve moved towards what comes to me most naturally,” says Jamie. ”My aim was to present everything as up-close as possible, so that the musicians and the sound of the instruments can speak for themselves. I’m trying to make something that sounds warm and inviting, something that people might want to return to. I’ve put my complete faith in making music my way and not compromising on anything.“
This clarity of purpose is also demonstrated lyrically on his track Dedication, a tribute to those who came before, especially the unsung musicians (“the never-known”) who made classic records sound so good. “I see myself in the line of British singers who love American black music, and make our own, slightly warped, reflection of it”.
Born in 1983, Jamie grew up in the SW London suburb of New Malden. He picked up the acoustic guitar at 15 and started writing songs inspired by Britpop guitar bands before before DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing… led him to discover the soul music that remains his strongest influence. After attending the BRIT School studying music, Jamie put in several years on the open mic singer-songwriter circuit. In 2007 he released his first independent single Wayfaring Stranger, a nod to his mother, folk singer Mae McKenna. “I’ve always liked that sense in folk music of being part of a line, music belonging to everyone, passing things down.”
Wayfaring Stranger came with a haunting remix by Burial. This linkup led to them collaborating together on what became Jamie’s debut album, Mirrorwriting, a striking and nocturnal collection of electronic soul released in 2011.
By chance, though, its release coincided with the birth of a number of new sub-genres and Jamie was assigned to the nebulous category of “post-dubstep”. “I didn’t expect that”, he says. “I didn’t really think about the reception and how to present it. To me it was an R&B record if I was to call it anything. I felt the perception of what the record was, and what I was, was quite far away from the truth. It was amazing that loads of people responded to it but I wasn’t that happy and I thought I probably should be.”
Mirrorwriting, was well-received, especially the seductive, Burial-produced single Night Air, but it was a challenge to communicate its bedroom-crafted fragility on bigger stages. Jamie became eager to develop a sound with more room for improvisation and input from others, not to mention more sociable. He wanted his next album to feel like a team effort. “I wanted to react to the first album. I didn’t want to touch a computer. I just knew I wanted something that sounded live and substantial.”
Jamie ended up with some old friends — regular collaborator Royce Wood Jr, bassist Dan Gulino and drummer Dan See— and some new ones, notably engineer/mixer/producer Lexxx.
“Lexxx opened my eyes to how records used to be put together technically and the benefit of shutting everything out and only concentrating on what feels good” The first song he made with Lexxx is the opener on Making Time: Message. A soulful rumination on ambition (“Message from the victor via satellite/It’s nice to know I’m doing something right/guess it’s my lucky night”). “That’s me explaining where i’ve been and working out my motivations,” he explains. “The process of the record was about finding confidence, listening to my instincts and getting better at acting on them.”
The last few years have been a collaborative time for Jamie; between albums, he sang on records by Disclosure, Paul White and Portico as his instinct led him to seek out a range of artists with whom he sensed an affinity for rhythm. He wrote the first single, Sharpness, in Los Angeles with Robin Hannibal of Rhye and Quadron. “It’s about being totally amazed by someone, and being attracted and repelled at the same time,” he says. It’s an effortless and tender song that suggests Marvin Gaye jamming with the yacht rock set, interrupted by a thrilling raw synth bass, and was premiered enthusiastically by Pharrell on his Beats 1 radio show.
Celebration is a sunny, philosophical duet with American singer-songwriter Willy Mason, whom Jamie has admired for over a decade. Thunder’s playful, twangy funk was made in a tiny studio on Osea Island in Essex with multi-talented producer Paul White, inspired by a thunderstorm that battered the island during their stay. Another song born on Osea Island is Lament, a devastating blend of elegiac piano and sub-bass detonations, influenced by hearing Faure’s Requiem. Little Wonder, which showcases Jamie’s inventive acoustic guitar-playing and a guitar solo that sounds like something that could have been on a Blur record, was written much further afield — in frosty northern China during a six-week residency for the British Council. “It came out of solitude and being away from people I love. It’s a message back home.”
Despite the more organic sound, Jamie hasn’t left club-influenced music totally behind, along with Sharpness, he’s made some of his most danceable music to date. The dense funk of Forgiven was influenced by the kind of records Floating Points and Theo Parrish would play at London’s much-missed Plastic People club. Movement’s thick, muscular groove explores the idea of dancing as therapy. “I was fighting apathy,” he says. “I’m pulling myself out of a hole, dancing out of a dark room.” Dedication, the last and longest song, closes the album with a joyous hymn to music and musicians – “it feels like it has a hint of where I might go next.” Throughout the album, the attention to atmosphere and detail is astonishing.
The narrative arc of Making Time reflects Jamie’s evolution while making it. Doubts and worries are addressed and overcome. New connections are made. The result is a singular demonstration of pure artistry: unhurried, uncompromised and unignorable. Time well spent.
- Jamie Woon's "Sharpness" shared with Pitchfork
- Jamie Woon returns with "Sharpness" via Complex
- Jamie Woon announces second album Making Time via FACT
- Jamie Woon live session on BBC Radio 1
- Jamie Woon featured on Pitchfork's Rising
- Jamie Woon interview with FACT Mag
- Jamie Woons' video for "Night Air" named best of the week by Stereogum
- Jamie Woons' "Night Air" on Resident Advisor
- Jamie Woons' single "Night Air" receive 4.5/5 on FACT Mag
- Jamie Woon's "Night Air" featured in Pitchfork's Forkcast