Published Aug 07, 2016After appearing on Action Bronson's 2015 LP Mr. Wonderful, Alex Fleming (a.k.a. Black Atlass) released the well-received single "Haunted Paradise," bringing to mind fellow dark-night-of-the-soul Canucks like the Weeknd and dvsn and proving that male Canadian R&B hasn't yet hit peak oil. But Fleming's debut LP, named after his year-old single, shows the young Montrealer refusing to lean upon the trail already blazed for him; the 11-track album is heavy on the freaky, but not in the way you'd expect.
On tracks like "Permanent Smile" and "Nothing Else," Fleming allows left-field rhythms and alien sounds to infiltrate his smooth, tempered delivery. On "Glow in the Dark" and "Holding On," Black Atlass utilizes a simple acoustic guitar strum, guiding each song along, while "Summer Time" comes off exceedingly sparse and experimental, showing just how many tools Fleming has up his sleeve here. Closing track "Exit," with its Tracy Chapman-style vocal quaver, Scott Walker-atmosphere and Radiohead-lifted melody, barely sounds like the modern-day R&B we're used to.
On Haunted Paradise, Black Atlass shows that he's every bit as daring and audacious as his peers by making it clear that he's not interested in riding their coattails. (Fool's Gold)