Imagine if you will, a time capsule aboard a deep spacecraft headed to eternity. The past informed by the present, and the present informed by the past. It’s an accurate description for the gravity defying EP Air Castle, a sonic journey through space and time launched by soul icon N’Dambi and All Cows Eat Grass front-man T.Brown.
Brown, former MD for Janelle Monáe, joined forces with the always musically adventurous N’Dambi for the cosmic soul outing which pairs the organic warmth of N’Dambi’s honeyed vocals and sophisticated songwriting with electronic synthesizer layers, 80’s sonic cues and retro-future compositions that in the end defy easy categorization.
“This project is an experience….a trip. Depending on where you come from determines how you hear it” declares N’Dambi. T. Brown characterizes it as an “Innocent exploration through different styles and concepts aiming to please and intrigue,” ultimately taking you back to your future.
“N’Dambi and All Cows Eat Grass describe their Air Castle EP as “a time capsule aboard a deep spacecraft headed to eternity,” and it’s clear what they mean. N’Dambi’s 70’s soul vibe meets T. Brown and ACEG’s 80’s electro-funk, but somehow despite it’s retro trappings, it sounds new. Futuristic even.”
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The burbling synth bass in the intro to “Nowhere” draws the listener into a delicious retro-production informed by 80’s sonics complete with syndrum snare hits and layers of synth fills. The vocal effects which at first suggest the vast nowhere of outer space evolve into an impassioned plea “we ain’t got to go nowhere” – and as a listener we are invited to settle in.
Next on display is N’Dambi’s now legendary storytelling through song. “Just A Man” – an ode to an enduring love for an absent father, N’Dambi swoops around a nearly anthemic melody detailing a penchant for projecting her idealized love onto potential love interests – until in a moment of clarity declares “he’s just a man.”
“Air Castle” is the north Memphis born T.Brown’s electro-soul production on full display. With Bowie-esque shifts in movements, “Air Castle” deftly blends a futuristic sonic aesthetic with funk, soul, and gospel vocals, building beneath a jazz-rock electric guitar lead by Jeff Gitelman which earns the song a berth on the short list of “songs to trip to.” Literally and figuratively.
“Show Me Your Smile” returns N’Dambi back to terra firma with the breezy warmth of a simple lyric extolling us to smile. Kellindo Parker, in his third appearance on the release, shines particularly for his syncopated guitar figure which invokes Convertion’s 1980 groover “Let’s Do It.” Paired with an easy melody, N’Dambi proves she can make grown men wistful for days gone by, yet it is T. Brown’s counter melody that’s all about the science of mind.
Research proves that smiling changes brain chemistry by raising serotonin, the body’s feel good chemical. Once you smile, you’re bound to feel better. One smile leads to a thousand smiles and we all feel better. Now isn’t that mind-blowing?
With “Borrowed Time”, a song about being present in this moment, we find the Dallas native in a setting that would befit Oleta Adams in her “Tears For Fears” prime. N’Dambi, with her contralto on full glorious display, implores us to take her hand – which we are willing to do – for no matter where she takes us on her sonic journeys – we know we are enveloped by the essence of her soul.
So there you have it. N’Dambi and All Cows Eat Grass. The Air Castle EP, taking you through your mind’s eye on a cosmic journey through the sky. What’s in your time capsule?
All Cows Eat Grass