First Listen: The Foreign Exchange brings "Shelter" to us in new single

(September 5, 2017) The idea of being sanctuary for another in a relationship is one of the most seductive themes in romantic novels, movies, and, of course, song. Usually such songs don’t bear much of a groove much less possess a stridently contemporary feel to them as “Shelter,” since the offer of safety lends itself to balladry and also happens to be among the most traditional hands one can extend to an intimate partner. But, The Foreign Exchange has its own long tradition of upending expectations. The North Carolina outfit’s collaboration with Oli Lazarus’s UK-based Reel People Music to release that label’s new Hide & Seek compilation series yields a percussive debut single that’s not quite as danceable as most of that soulful house label’s legend, and strongly bears the band’s usual crisp, melancholic stamp.

(September 5, 2017) The idea of being sanctuary for another in a relationship is one of the most seductive themes in romantic novels, movies, and, of course, song. Usually such songs don’t bear much of a groove much less possess a stridently contemporary feel to them as “Shelter,” since the offer of safety lends itself to balladry and also happens to be among the most traditional hands one can extend to an intimate partner. But, The Foreign Exchange has its own long tradition of upending expectations. The North Carolina outfit’s collaboration with Oli Lazarus’s UK-based Reel People Music to release that label’s new Hide & Seek compilation series yields a percussive debut single that’s not quite as danceable as most of that soulful house label’s legend, and strongly bears the band’s usual crisp, melancholic stamp. Yet, the very fine cut is somehow still bold enough to hold an ambient mid-tempo groove and suggest movement in its production if not in your hips. 

As with most of The Foreign Exchange’s catalog, the work is serious, resistant of musical cliché, and is unabashedly mature in its relationship observations. Singer/rapper Phonte Coleman and singer/songwriter and longtime +FE collaborator Carmen Rodgers have a beautiful, if plainspoken blend against Nicolay’s evening cityscape sounds of synths, percussions, and electronic accents. The effect is classic The Foreign Exchange with its signature ability to make what is naturally cold in electronic music sound unnaturally warm and human.

Interestingly, “Shelter’s” autumn preamble, while solid, is far from the strongest on a collection that overflows with more vibrant and catchy tunes, including Pirahnahead & Diviniti’s “The Beauty of Life (featuring Carmen Rodgers),” Gwen Bunn’s “Without A Doubt,” and the Brandyesque “MPH” featuring Bosco. Having too many single-worthy songs is, of course, a high-class problem that surely fans of Reel People and The Foreign Exchange will appreciate while hop-scotching through Hide & Seek. More than the sacrificial offer of a love’s covering, here lies some welcome shelter from the storms of bad music releases blowing through 2017.

By L. Michael Gipson

 
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