Conveying the right emotional substance is the first component of what makes a certain song, genre, or artist work. From the initial pounce of the first chords to the shuddering disintegration of the coda, the listening session has to reach your senses first and knock any sort of distraction from your psyche. In my personal lifetime, as well as the lives of others, much of this has been succeeded by genres such as R&B and Neo-Soul. Between the varying guitar chords that titillate your nerves, or the piano chords that reciprocate back and forth within the confinement of your brain, every genre eludes a different mood that makes it work. If someone were to go out on a Friday night and delve into the sensuous facilities of escapism or attract potential partners, they would most likely not think about attending a concerto or symphony.
Alternatively, a college professor who assigns his or her students assignments on the studies of seventeenth-century instrumentation, the students may not attend an EDM concert for their research. Each genre has their own evocations to expel and their own fanbase who follows the scent of its beauty and significance. R&B has a different fanbase to approach and please. There’s something about the bass guitar chords or the billowing electric keyboard chords that initiate thoughts of a rarefied nebula that hangs in the room of those who feel the need to relax from the pressures of the external world. The songs themselves don’t relay much intellectual challenge when it comes to music about relationships or flirtation, but what makes the genre work is the feeling that melts into the room and hypnotizes the mind to ease.
In 2017, a California R&B group relayed their talent for the world to see and feel those same emotions. GrooveLiners released what seemed to be their first EP released on their SoundCloud and Bandcamp page, and has much to say in terms of talent. The EP itself is five tracks long with distinguishable sounds to explore and an overall mood that elicits the same R&B pronunciation, but warped and tempered differently.
Through the advent of social media elevating the new forms of music, it’s heartfelt to see groups such as The Internet and artists like Frank Ocean wove their personality into their approach to the incremental growth of Soul and R&B music. This project isn’t a typical project such as that of Erykah Badu or The Roots, but rather a collection of sounds and ideas enmeshed together to create a general tone that agrees with the frail rules of R&B music. Each song in this EP sounds different, but still recalls specific moments in their life that all entangles together in the same feeling. The same feeling that R&B has been producing since its inception.
The project starts out with the track introvert, which goes into what seems to be an audio recording of a discorded conversation, then submits to subtle guitar play, linear drum pads, and melodic vocals by Michael Womack. It’s a humble and head-nodding tune to start the project with. The next song, feel it out, is my favorite song of the project, and my introduction to this group. Throughout the track, the vocals melodically croon with the sporadic chords, as keyboardist Dominic Duarte goes in an improvisational attack around three minutes in. What I love about this song is how nocturnal it sounds. My most vivid memory of this track is cruising with my buddies around a richer area around our town in the midst of midnight, how we would bounce from store to store, arcade to the theater, and restaurant to ice cream parlor.
The next track, night rider, is a procession of a linear patterned beat tempo and elevating vocals that provokes a midnight sensation of riding out into the streets of L.A. or Chicago. The song, white sand, is a pure contemplation of pious piano chords and ear-pleasing vocal melody that transcribes the heartfelt message of trying your best, despite the tribulations of life itself. The final and bonus track to the project words cant . swells and eases like the starter track, with a humble tune that follows the same melodic Soul Hop sound that reminds me of Tom Misch or J Dilla.
I discovered this project around this year, and it already gave me a lot of memories of indolent nights with friends or special occasions out in the city. Groups like GrooveLiners deserve more attention in the already saturated fields of social media and digital platforming. But with their different and collective talent, GrooveLiners stands out from the crowd and through their music, feels ready to achieve yet more sounds and attack the age with more of their music. Whether groups like these achieve the attention they deserve or not, listeners have the special arcane in their thoughts. Underground musicians help achieve memories and feelings that make the listener’s ruminations unique from the hivemind of popular music and commercialized drivel.