Previously, London duo Naz & Ella caught our attention with the engaging ‘No (Doesn’t Mean Convince Me)’ (see Wavegirl review previously). It demonstrated a particular talent for mood and melody, while also managing to provide a stark commentary on the thorny topic of sexual harassment.
That track forms part of Naz & Ella’s latest EP (DE)HUMANISE, which the duo have pitched as delivering a “moody and gritty direction while still retaining their raw and intimate sound”. It’s an EP which plays around with folk, post-punk and grunge influences as well as more direct touchstones, including The Cranberries and Nirvana.
(DE)HUMANISE certainly doesn’t waste time in tackling difficult topics in its lyrical content which casts an eye over internalised homophobia, racial prejudice, animal cruelty and broken relationships. While those kind of themes could easily result in a darker, brooding musical accompaniment, the compositions instead breathe with warmth as well as a knack for wistful vocals bolstered by subtly powerful guitar elements.
Take ‘Internalised’, which offers a reflection on struggling to come to terms with your sexuality. The narrative zeroes in on the idea that before “coming out” to others, you need to “come out” to yourself. It’s a touching, sweet affair with some plaintive guitar which also features some emotive vocals from Ella. Touching on the awkwardness that such situations might present, the lyrics also offer solace: “And for the first time in my life/I’m proud to call you mine.”
As discussed in our previous review, ‘No (Doesn’t Mean Convince Me)’ makes good use of layered effects and vocal harmonics. It’s a warm and engaging track, despite the stark contrast of the lyrics which were inspired by the normalisation of sexual harassment that many women experience (“Sexualised then demonised”). Discussing the genesis of the song, Naz describes the song as being “a song about taking our power back in these situations that make us feel powerless.”
The lilting melodies of ‘Exotica’ provides a commentary on the peculiar cultural trope that people of colour can be perceived as exotic items – a stripping away of humanity that reduces race to a fetish (“Reduced to a fantasy”). There’s a dream-like vibe to this number, despite its stripped-down simplicity.
Meanwhile, ‘We Are The Enemy’ provides an intriguing exploration into the hypocrisy of acknowledging a certain complicity in how cruelty towards animals is routinely justified. “Although we’re not doing the killing” observes Naz, “we’re consumers who are contributing to the supply and demand.” Here, the musical approach is more strident with a much more percussive drive that features some compelling guitar elements.
Closing the EP out, ‘Flux’ is gentler affair with an acoustic guitar and an airy vocal delivery from Ella (and some hypnotic cello elements care of Polina Kermesh). Here, the lyrics delve into broken relationships utilising themes of water as a suitable metaphor for love and relationships, both being capable of being tranquil as well as chaotic.
(DE)HUMANISE is a captivating collection of songs that demonstrate that Naz & Ella have a talent for both musical composition as well as penning thoughtful lyrics.
Intriguingly, the duo also embarked on crafting a special zine to accompany the new release. This concept (which more bands should indulge in) means you get more insight into the ideas and inspirations behind the songs. Along the way, there’s also some engaging essays, lyrics, photos and guitar tabs. It’s a beautifully produced publication that’s obviously involved a lot of work and provides the perfect companion piece to the EP.
(DE)HUMANISE is out now: https://songwhip.com/nazandella/dehumanise
Naz & Ella perform live on the following dates:
19/08/21 | The Windmill Brixton | Supporting Magick Mountain
28/08/21 | Firstsite Colchester | Colchester Pride
02/09/21 | AMP Studios
02/10/21 | Poplar Union | Mishti Dance