Greentea Peng – ‘MAN MADE’ review: spellbinding debut steeped in spiritual reflections

The rising star's distinctive aura and voice makes for a one-of-a-kind debut album

Two tracks into her debut LP, Greentea Peng sums up her style more succinctly than any reviewer ever could. “This sound…. it’s very physical and literal, but metaphysical and mystical,” she coos, reinforcing the aura of calm self-assurance that has surrounded the south-east London singer ever since her earliest musical experiments.

She’s right to be confident; three years on from the psychedelic soul of ‘Moonchild’, Greentea has succeeded in crafting a collection that is as much a multi-sensory experience as it is an album. Written and recorded in a remote corner of Surrey – as part of a month-long wilderness retreat with her seven-piece house band the Seng Seng Family – ‘MAN MADE’ seems to have absorbed the shroom-soaked spirit of its surroundings by osmosis. Listening to funk guitar mingle with dubby bass and languid brass on the aforementioned ‘This Sound’, you can practically feel your pulse-rate dropping in real time.

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As Greentea herself told NME, it’s a record purpose-designed to resonate “more in your heart space, and less in your headspace,” to the extent that she recorded the vast majority of songs in 432hZ, a tuning a semitone below the industry standard. It’s debatable how noticeable that deviation really is – particularly when experienced in isolation from all other music – but there’s no doubting the sense of serenity her choice of palette provokes.

Greentea’s love of Finley Quaye’s ‘Maverick A Strike’ is writ large in the loose grooves and laidback diction on ‘Earnest’, while the Simmy and Kid Cruise-starring ‘Free My People’ draws on Damian Marley, its message of liberation propelled by rippling reggae rhythms. The sparse, Swindle-produced ‘Be Careful’ hypnotises with serpentine flute loops, while the blissed out ‘Nah It Aint The Same’ lulls listeners with a mix of syncopated Hammond organ, scratching and elastic double bass, before reaching a euphoric climax hewn from D’n’B beats and jazzy piano trills.

‘MAN MADE’s lyrical focus is similarly spellbinding, steeped in spiritual reflections and mantra-like repetition, but also frequently calls for unity in the face of authoritarian forces. “This is for the youth that can’t be silenced nor battered nor beaten, though you try to confine us,” she sighs on ‘Make Noise’, a call to arms as languorous as you’re likely to hear. Throughout, you get the sense Greentea is defiantly doing everything in her own sweet time. Lucky for us, then, that her sense of timing is in sync with the universe, because this hazy set is ideally suited to the long, lazy summer days.

Details

  • Release date: June 4
  • Record label: AMF Records
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