New talent, Radar: Naomi Scott, Fifi Rong, Geovarn and more

Naomi Scott, Radar at Under the Bridge, London, Feb 26, 2015, by Aaron Lee (3264x1836)Seeing a showcase of fledgling music acts the day after the Brit Awards puts the art of music-making in sharp relief. Because while it’s tough for anyone to sell music nowadays, for unknown and unsigned artists it’s a constant struggle just to be heard.

If any of the six acts at the February edition of Radar at Under the Bridge in London, organised by Music Week and MusicConnex, were frustrated with the noise levels, they did well to hide it. The boldest made animated efforts to connect with the audience of A&Rs, music press and invited industry guests, encouraging sing-alongs, rave-fuelled hip shaking and, in the case of Fifi Rong, aerobics, even though the air of post-work reluctance was there.

The six artists – Bella Figura*, Jungle Doctors, Princess Slayer, Geovarn, Fifi Rong and Naomi Scott – each had something different to offer on an evening of instant attractions and acquired tastes.

Fifi Rong, studio session, press photo, 2013, 01 (2000x1125)Fifi Rong
As the penultimate act, it would be unfair to say that the refined figure of Fifi Rong had an easy time casting a spell over the chattering audience. Armed with only a laptop – the source of this Beijing-born songstress’s surreal sounds and on-screen visualisations – the sight of Rong alone on the stage contrasted heavily with all the other acts that night.

Clad in a lengthy, black, not-quite-see-through dress, her coiled hair decorated with hanging beads, Rong’s patient eyes looked out from beneath elongated eyelashes. She was quite the picture. A vision of empress-like imperialism. Rong’s sound, aesthetic and stock of art-house visuals that flickered behind her took the mood to a solitary, introspective place that hinted of Bat for Lashes, Björk and especially Emilíana Torrini. Backed by ominous, yet melodic electronica, her voice flowed like cool water. Her relative stillness only added to the melancholy, thoughtfulness of her sound. Hard to gauge whether other guests felt it, but I was captivated. Making moody but soulful ‘listen-to-me’ music fit for travel and contemplation, it’s clear why she’s causing such a stir here in London and her native country.
Listen to: Next Pursuit (feat. Sadsic)
Notable releases: Next Pursuit EP \ Next Pursuit RMX
Links: Website \ Twitter \ SoundCloud \ YouTube

Geovarn James, press photo 02 (2500x1406)Geovarn
You only had to look at the flamethrower-toting entourage that backed Kanye West’s Brit Awards performance to wonder: is there any room left in the UK grime scene? Thankfully, north London’s Geovarn James has his sights set on R&B, which has been going through a period of revival. Male UK R&B singers of Geovarn’s calibre appear to be few and far between right now, which makes the effectual music of this 21-year-old all the more exciting.

“What you say now. I’m just trying to make it every day now,” Geovarn sang, his composure giving nothing away at the beginning of a set that gradually unpacked his emotions. Geovarn’s sound is heavily influenced by the R&B and hip hop of the 80s and 90s (R Kelly), with Drake and PartyNextDoor also cited as influences. And the comparison was spot on, as Geovarn harmonised, along with his three backing singers, in a butter-smooth tone, “I love how you feel / on a Friday night”, only to dive moments later into a quick-fire rap verse. Slow jams and trap beats seem to be his forte, but there are elements to his sound (particularly some of the guitar and bass riffs) that feel reminiscent of Chic and 80s dance-pop. With a voice that’s got a Frank Ocean, André 3000 and Luther Vandross vibe about it, Geovarn joins contemporaries, such as Kenzie May, who are steadily expanding the current R&B revival.
Listen to: 4am
Notable releases: 4am
Links: Twitter \ SoundCloud \ YouTube

Jungle Doctors, press photo, Oct 25, 2014 (1920x1080)Jungle Doctors
The Jungle Doctors feel like a band that may well go on to become your girlfriend/boyfriend’s next indie rock fixation. Hailing from London and Teddington, and apparently formed “out of boredom during school lunchtimes”, this five-piece has been attracting buzz for its lively, summer-soaked tunes.

They certainly seemed to hold the Radar audience’s attention. Having arrived just at the end of their set, I only got to hear the band’s closing number. But even then the excitement in the faces of the band members (Sam Budd, Will Tyler, David Thomas, Angus McGuinness and Louis Watton) and those listening was evident. ‘The Sea and the Rain’, the band’s closing number, was instant ear candy. Jungle Doctors fit into the same vein of summery pop-rock inhabited by Peace, Haim and Sound of 2015 winner Years & Years. The most “listenable” act of the night for some.
Listen to: Can You See It
Notable releases: Open Up EP \ Making Conversation EP
Links: Website \ Twitter \ SoundCloud \ YouTube

Naomi Scott, press photo, Dec 12, 2014, (1920x1080)Naomi Scott
If this was the first time Naomi Scott had summoned a tired crowd to her feet and transformed them, you wouldn’t have known it. From the moment she bounded to centre stage to declare herself with the charm of an entertainment presenter, you knew that she had every intention of making the last performance the audience heard as memorable as all those that had come before it.

The 21-year-old singer and pianist, who already has an acting career on the go, has slowly been revealing layers of artistic excellence, even at this early stage. Singing ‘Power’, Scott glided smoothly from the head-bopping chorus (“You got the power, the power…”) into scat singing. Once behind her keyboard, Scott got into her stride with her striking mash-up of the Temple’s ‘Move with the Season’ and Hozier’s ‘Take Me to Church’. Dropping a Drake verse into an interlude during ‘Say Nothing’ raised a smile from those who caught it. You’ll see a bit of Norah Jones in her one minute, Alicia Keys the next. But there’s a lot more to Scott, whose voice is like milk and honey. Riding out to ‘Hear the Bells’, its tribal drum beat and Scott’s percussive, Beyoncé-ish narration inspiring primal hip-shaking, she left the audience on a high.
Listen to: Hear the Bells
Notable releases: Invisible Division EP
Links: Website \ Twitter \ SoundCloud \ YouTube

Princess Slayer, press photo 2014, 01 (720x405)Princess Slayer
Radar is a showcase, not a contest. But if it had been, then Princess Slayer vocalist Casey Lim would have notched up big stage presence points thanks to her wild enthusiasm. She pirouetted about the stage, singing, palms to the sky as she got lost in her own dizzy, electro-pop rave and encouraged the audience to join her.

Vince Welch’s productions are inspired by Bonobo, Phaeleh and Die Antwoord. Translated to the live stage with the help of Jack Kendrew and Nathan Rasdall, there was a palpable sense of Tame Impala, albeit with less psych, to proceedings. If the band’s cacophonous cover of Naughty Boy’s ‘La La La’, complete with a pre-crescendo air horn blast, left onlookers stunned, then so too did Lim’s exclamation that next they were going to “make things more romantic”. But the boisterous frontwoman, who cites Haim, Sia and Submotion Orchestra among her influences, did just that on the dreamer number that followed. Closing with thumping anthem song, ‘Living’, Lim hollering: “Still living, still living. Living to seize the day”, Princess Slayer unleashed a mild rock-rave on the audience reminiscent of Little Dragon. Whatever else you say about this Guildford band, they’ve got energy for days.
Listen to: Living (snippet)
Notable releases: Living EP (released April 12, 2015)
Links: Website \ Twitter \ SoundCloud \ YouTube

*I missed Bella Figura’s performance unfortunately, but you can check them out here.

Music Week and MusicConnex’s Radar returns on June 24, 2015.

Images: Aaron Lee (main); Fifi Rong; Geovarn; Sophie Mayanne/Jungle Doctors; Raja Virdi/Naomi Scott; Princess Slayer/Trendkill Photos