English producer, DJ, and now singer, Maya Jane Coles has been one of the hottest names in the underground house world since 2010 when she grabbed DJ Mag’s attention as one of best newcomers of the year. Releasing a four track EP on Frank Rogers’ Realtone Records, Maya’s What They Say EP smashed clubs with her unique brand of deep house. Maya has become known for her groovy baselines, expansive DJ sets, sensual energy, killer remixes and an emotional immediacy that few are capable of bringing to dance music. With 10+ EPs since What They Say, Maya’s star has only risen with numerous festivals gigs, magazine covers, and increased exposure. This summer, Maya has taken a giant step forward with her artistry in releasing her debut LP, Comfort.
At just under an hour long, Maya Jane Coles’ album Comfort is a a complicated and layered affair sure to reward over multiple re-listens. At times haunting, eerie, and downright intense, it’s also personable, tender, and classic. Maya’s twisted wizardry brings a complexity to dance music that is usually reserved for other genres. Maya’s roots in trip-hop (she began producing it in her teens) are evident from the very beginning with opening title track “Comfort,” a smoked out lounge vibe that sets the tone for the rest of the LP. While the lyrics were rather inaudible to me, they along with the undulating melodies make for an intense track with a dark pop feel. Like a ghost in the club, Maya’s music brings an incredible ethereal warmth to it while simultaneously sending chills down your back. Maya manages to evoke a cognitive dissonance with her music that at once will shake you to your core while also providing a warmth that could otherwise only come from your mother’s bosom.
Having previously outsourced any and all vocals on her EPs, Maya took the opportunity afforded by a debut LP to show off her perfectly suited hypnotic vocals. Again Maya’s roots in trip-hop are evident as her vocals take on a similarity to that of a classic trip-hop songstress, sparking memories of early mornings and late nights listening to Massive Attack and Portishead. The album carries on with a super-artsy, if not esoteric aesthetic, while also retaining some classy pop elements, heady vibes, and sparse religious overtones. Maya’s voice will surely not be on any US Top 40 material without any seriously changing tides (which could actually happen…), but it does have a classic timeless feel to it that makes seem so personal, leaving Maya at her most vulnerable. This vulnerability though isn’t limited to her vocals though as this raw emotion pervades the album’s entirety, giving the album as a whole a personal closeness that few artists today even dare commit.
These same raw emotions morphs again and again throughout the LP. While some tracks see Maya exploring new tempos and styles (post-rock, breakbeat electronica anyone?), it is Maya’s flexibility and range in producing a wide and varied yet consistent sound that highlights her prowess. Tracks like “Wait For You” harken back similarities to that of old-school Bassnectar and electronica-era Moby, while her collaboration with Nadine Shah (“Blame”) brings in elements of American southwest post-rock with it’s twangy strings and pronounced classical instrumentation. Surely some of the sounds are synthetic in design, but it’s the confluence of both digital and analog sounds that give Maya’s Comfort an organic feel and ultimately, it’s foundation and strength.
Listening to the album multiple times over the last few weeks serves as a true, unfettered view into Maya’s artistry, and perhaps as a person. It seems that for Maya, music is clearly not just a career, but a vital form of creative expression and an essential catharsis. A satisfying debut, Maya’s album is sure to reap value upon multiple re-listens. Not just a collection of bangers, but a true album intended for whole consumption, Comfort will work in the after-hours, dimly lit clubs, your late night study room sessions, and of course, the bedroom. With a refined artistry, emotional closeness, and daunting mix of audio feats, this album truly is a “comfort” in a time of disposable big room anthems about molly or auto-tuned lyrics about getting “wet.” Maya’s Comfort is a refreshing release to reassure the artistry in dance music’s bright future.