The man, seemingly known only as Joe, who makes Garage music under the name Sorrow, has a thing for bold and upfront titles.
First there is his moniker itself, which manages to both intrigue and confound. It takes a certain kind of confidence to name your musical project after an emotion, particularly the sort of emotion that could just as easily be used as the name of a doom metal band.
Second there is his (excellent) new EP, titled Art Is Dead. That is of course the sort of eye grabbing title designed for headlines like “On Art Is Dead Sorrow Proves Himself Wrong!” It’s hard to discern what the purpose of such a title would be past that, but luckily that doesn’t matter much, because of the masterful tunes contained therein.
It’s true that Sorrow’s music does have a certain streak of sadness running through it, as in the mournful piano and ghostly vocals in “My Love,” and in this he owes a debt to modern UK Garage maestro Burial (Sorrow acknowledged this debt with a remix of Burial’s “Untrue” a year ago.)
But, unlike Burial, Sorrow does not allow his titular emotion to overtake the head bobbing fun of his tracks. Art Is Dead is an EP ripe for listens in many different settings. As background music it is stellar, its moody cityscape-invoking textures and 2 step rhythms more than suitable for a relaxing, if somewhat wistful, evening in.
Under scrutiny however, particularly listened to through headphones, Sorrow’s tracks still hold up, abounding in subtle changes and miniscule details that make them that much more of an interesting listen. Drake gets sampled on “Girl I Miss You,” for example, allowing for a slight re-contextualization of the song, placing it ever so slightly out of the somewhat insular world of UK garage and showing that Sorrow has an ear toward music’s mainstream world.
Sorrow has already released a couple of singles since the release of Art Is Dead, (all available for stream or download on his bandcamp page), and each show off a restless artist with an ever-changing style. “Sleepless Nights” trades in ambiance, while “Siren’s Echo” nudges Sorrow’s style ever closer to a more danceable realm. For fans of UK Garage, and electronic music in general, Sorrow’s restless inventiveness and obvious skill should make him an artist to watch quite closely.