Voice Notes

Voice Notes

“This isn’t a concept album,” Yazmin Lacey tells Apple Music. “This is a sound collage that represents where I am right now. I worked on this project for over two years. There’s more collaboration here, I’ve worked with more people compared to any other project I’ve put out. The music-making process has been similar in some ways, though. I’m a creature of comfort. If things aren’t comfortable for me, I don’t do them. So, in terms of the way we recorded, it was similar. I laid down a lot of the vocals on my own.” The East London-born singer-songwriter’s story is anything but conventional. While working blue-collar jobs for many years, hazy, fume-filled open mic nights and late bars are where Yazmin Lacey found her calling. Using the improvisation of ’40s bebop, hip-hop word spirals, and neo-soul-driven melodies, Lacey would carve out rousing performances from loose freestyles, sharing this across a debut EP, Black Moon, her bold introduction to the alternative jazz circuit in 2017. The following year, a second EP, When the Sun Dips 90 Degrees, served up genre-bending mysticism, encompassing the past and future with every groove as slow-burning cuts recalled Ella Fitzgerald, Sweetback, and early Amy Winehouse in tonality and tempo. Tapping beatsmiths David Okumu, Melo-Zed, and JD. Reid for her full-length debut LP, the album is structured just as it’s titled—a digital sketchbook with an analog feel. Recorded over a two-year span, Voice Notes is an expansive exploration of Yazmin’s personal and musical hallmarks. Reflecting on small-hours excursions (“Late Night People”), scenic waterfronts (“Sea Glass”), and foggy, early-morning bus rides (“Where Did You Go?”), Voice Notes finds Yazmin wrestling with her subconscious. “I think this album took so long to make because life just kept happening,” she says. “It’s a collection of my life.” Read on for her track-by-track guide. “Flylo Tweet” “This began life as an eight-and-a-half-minute freestyle, a literal stream of consciousness. As the title suggests, a legendary tweet from Flying Lotus—aka FlyLo—inspired the song. I practiced free-form writing for half an hour for this song to clear my mind. At the end of the freestyle, I talked with one of my best friends, Stella. I vividly remember telling her about this tweet I’d seen. The conversation spawned into a discussion about FlyLo’s philosophy of self-consciousness and its role as a creativity killer. I knew starting the album with eight full minutes would’ve been too much. Because of that, the final version of the song you hear is actually a conversation between me and one of the album’s producers, Zach Cayenne-Elliott, aka Melo-Zed. We’re not talking about music specifically throughout; it’s more of a window into my chaotic mind.” “Bad Company” “This song explores duality. [Producer and leader of The Invisible] Dave Okumu and I had fun with this track. This track is the spiritual successor to ‘Flylo Tweet.’ Here’s where things get introspective for me. I start to ask critical questions about myself. My demons were personified as a character called Priscilla. It’s a real self-reflective session where I wrestle with life’s ills. Priscilla’s impact is felt throughout the rest of the album too.” “Late Night People” “I love nocturnal things. My whole creative process for this track was inspired by the night sky, being outside, and clubbing culture. The track is really symbolic for me because I got my first gig in the smoking area of a pub. When I first started singing, I had a full-time job, so the only time I had an opportunity to make music was at night. Because the night guided so much of my early music, it also embedded itself in my creativity. This song represents all those late-night house parties, clubbing and 4 am adventures.” “Fool’s Gold” “This song is raw. I love it because ‘Fool’s Gold’ was a jam session that morphed into a track. This was inspired by a late-night conversation I had with a stranger at a bus stop. What’s amazing about this track is that many lyrical themes and [the] structure are pretty much unchanged from our jam session—there’s real beauty in that.” “Where Did You Go?” “This song is like a mental pit stop. ‘Flylo Tweet’ is the opener, setting up my creative process; ‘Bad Company’ deals with my inner-demon Priscilla, which leads to my decisions on ‘Late Night People.’ After burning the midnight oil, I head to my bus stop at 1 am on ‘Fool’s Gold,’ and now this track is kind of me reflecting and asking myself what’s next. I’m soul-searching.” “Sign and Signal” “Like the previous track, ‘Sign And Signal’ was about the changes in my life at the time. It might sound cheesy, but I was looking for clues in sentimental things, things my friends would say, or what I’d see on the street. The day I made this song, I was on the way to the studio and saw a flyer that said, ‘If you can dream it, you can believe it,’ or something along those lines. When I was in the studio, Zak already had the track demo with the switch in it. From there, I just started harmonizing with the mantra I saw on the street in the forefront of my mind. After we tweaked the track with Dave’s sauce, we went into executive-producer mode and started stitching the album together. This track really bought everything together.” “From a Lover” “This sits in a world I’ve never really inhabited before. When I made this record, so many things—good and bad—were happening in my life. While recording the album, I spent time with my dad and brother, sifting through their old records. I guess their records inspired how I wrote, especially their Caribbean records and vintage lovers rock. It’s real authentic.” “Eye to Eye” “I always try and use my voice as an instrument. ‘Eye to Eye’ is the perfect example of this. This song is sincere and vulnerable—emotionally speaking. It’s all fun and games when you’re in the studio, just spilling out your heart, but then it’s crazy to think people listen to experiences. The song is all about intimacy. It’s about connecting with someone sensually, binding the mind, body, and spirit together. The song is an ode to connectivity. My voice is real smooth and silky on this.” “Pieces” “This is a continuation of the previous track. It’s an open goodbye letter, probably one of the most personal tracks I’ve made. It summarizes my feelings. When dealing with a breakup, you’re all over the place. A song like ‘Pieces’ is like making sense of my thoughts. I remember going back and forth with my manager, discussing this track’s fate. After a while, something came over me and I said, ‘I have to put this out.’ It was so important to me that it eventually became Voice Notes’ first single.” “Pass It Back” “This one is really cool. I roughly talk about a particular thing in my life. It was something that I’d been carrying on my shoulders for a few years, and this track was like me finally letting go of it all.” “Tomorrow’s Child” “Thematically, this track is connected to ‘From a Lover.’ It was a freestyle that spawned from hearing a record in my dad’s collection. My mind had moved on from the album’s whirlwind: the emotional relationship stuff. My mind was pondering the world and everything going on right now. I’m an auntie and a godmother. Loads of my friends have children, and then you have COVID-19 in the back of everyone’s mind too. I’m not trying to say I’m some eco-warrior, but I think this song is a time lapse of the changes I’ve seen.” “Match in my Pocket” “This is a conversation between me and my girlfriends. We’re talking about the fact that we’re proud to be Black—it’s deep and carries a huge sense of pride. I don’t often write about things that come under the realm of politics because I write in such a borderless way. Normally, if I were tackling something socially conscious, I would feel like I’d have to think about it and structure it concisely. Luckily, everything came out naturally with this song. I hummed the bits out to Zak in a voice note before I left for London. When I got to the studio, Zak had the perfect drums, and the song came together just like that. It’s just a love letter to us. The song’s overall sentiment is that each generation will be stronger than the one that came before.” “Legacy” “Simply put, this one’s about my Nanny Mary—my mum’s mum. She passed away quite a long time ago, but I think the dynamics in my family are changing, and Nanny Mary is a big part of me looking back on how things used to be. My path into music was a quick left and out of the blue. I often think about where that confidence comes from, from my nan. She was very much the head of our family. I’m sad she never heard me sing, so this song’s dedicated to her. JD. Reid put the song together and helped me focus. We wrote this in one sitting.” “Sea Glass” “I’m a Cancerian: We love water. We’re also deep thinkers, overthinkers, deep dwellers, and storytellers. I wrote a lot of this track by the sea. I go there on my own, just randomly. I’ve been doing it for years. I just like being by the water. I voice noted a lot and listened to a lot of the album by the sea. The record starts so chaotic before it simmers down—that’s how I am. This is the culmination of everything. It’s me reflecting on my time at sea. Even though it's melancholic, the song has a real sense of finality. After Zak and I finished, we hugged, and it was such a special moment. This track capped off two years of recording. It’s the perfect bookend for the album.”

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