Songwriter, rapper, visual artist and NiNE8 Collective member Lava La Rue has – unsurprisingly per their busy lifestyle – racked up a fair few mixtapes and EPs in just a matter of years. From the abstract soundscapes of ‘Lavaland Part 1’ (2017) to the lo-fi hip hop of ‘Letra’ EP (2018) and 2019’s bolder ‘STITCHES’, the London artist has evolved at every turn and refined their sound. Their latest ‘Butter-Fly’ EP is no exception; this is La Rue’s strongest outing yet.
Lava, real name Ava Laurel, recently told NME that the intimate stylings on this level were inspired by reaching a new level of contentment in their life. “‘Butter-Fly’ was made in a transitional period for me,” they say. “I’d fallen head over heels in love and I felt like I had cut off all the negative things in my life.”
Perhaps that’s why the music, which pulls from the psych pop stylings of Tame Impala and Unknown Mortal Orchestra, sounds so heady. Laurel retains the chatty rap of their earlier work, but refined and melodic choruses command centre stage, now boosted by guest spots from Clairo, Deb Never and Karma Kid.
Take ‘G.O.Y.D’, a lush slow jam about a long-distance relationship. After a torrent of gushy declarations rapped by Laurel (“Call me Molly ’cause I been rolling like a heartthrob”), Clairo picks up the receiver to play the other longing half. It’s a welcome dabble into romanticism, and a jump from the socio-political stories that coloured early work. But, as ever, it comes with a wider purpose. They recently told NME that they were inspired to explore and vocalise these emotions so because “queer love is inherently political” and that “it’s still extremely underrepresented across all genres.”
Elsewhere, Laurel turns up the wonk for EP highlight ‘Angel’ – featuring new-gen rockstar Deb Never – a sparkling tune sprung by hypnotic synths and taut basslines. “Pupils dilating / Want you up and down”, Laurel purrs before switching to breathy R&B singing at the song’s hook. On ‘Magpie’, Laurel instead exposes the risks of love and how they fall in and out too easily. Opening up has its downfalls, after all.
Dreamy trip-hop track ‘Lift You Up’ returns to Laurel’s longtime manta of self-love and acceptance: “This world is for me it’s my Lava town”, they spit in spoken-word over swelling beats, while Karma Kid’s gorgeous falsetto strengthens the track’s hopeful message. ‘Butter-Fly’ revels tonally and thematically in Laurel’s first flush of love, and being its voyager is a rewarding experience. Their next journey will no doubt be just as thrilling.
- Release date: February 19
- Record label: Marathon Artists