Thursday, 12 September 2013


Dagenham's Bow Promise believes in pushing the boundaries of R&B, and she has no plan to start pandering to conventions any time soon. Produced by long-time collaborator Lostchild, an atmospheric electronic London producer with a taste for 80s pads, her debut EP Cactus is a thoroughly intelligent, atmospheric, often experimental take on an over-saturated genre.

Take the title track from her debut EP - an aggressive, rough-around-the-edges R&B/Hip Hop crossover based around a complex and unconventional cactus metaphor. Bow informs me "The chorus actually came from a Whatsapp status that read something like "you can't sow your heart with someone who doesn't want to water it and then say "but it's rooted in fertile soil!"she takes this musing almost word for word in the chorus of "Cactus", and these kind of philosophical complexities are rife in Bow Promise's writing.

about me yearning for someone's love and becoming unapproachable and alone as a result," she clarifies. And it seems like this distrust of men is also rife in her writing: "I've had situations where I've not only doubted that a guy might be able to hold down a relationship with me, but I doubted that they were even interested in me in the first place. This kind of distrust led me to "Cactus", which is kind of saying "see, I told you you'd leave!"

And it's not just her lyrics that are complex. Her vocal melodies are often unexpected and sometimes even brave. Lostchild provides her, rather cruelly, with a icy, sharp hip hop beat on "Cactus", that would quite easily, and more conventionally, suit a rapper. However, Ms Promise rises to the challenge and throws feisty, acrobatic melodies over the top that catch the ear and demand the attention, much like the attention she demands from her lover in the song itself.

Even on the other two considerably tamer tracks on the EP, her melodies can't sit still, and she's not one to repeat a melody twice in the same song. And this isn't some unnecessary melisma - these are meticulous, delicately written melodies that reflect the rollercoaster of ideas inside the mind of Bow Promise.

If the song "Cactus" showcases her fierce and intelligent side, the remaining tracks on the EP showcase a vulnerability in her persona, and a secretly intense desire for a human connection. "I've been using one relationship as a muse and exploring it with my music" Bow reveals, and the smooth, soulful 90s R&B of "More" certainly explores polar emotions to the EP's title track. Over seductive yet organic slow jam beats, Promise laments that she's "more than a touch and more than a body to take" in a vulnerable form that couldn't at all be perceived from her unapproachable and aggressive character on "Cactus".

"I wrote my first song when I was in year 10 at school" Bow tells me, and the last 12 years of writing and listening about her experiences seem to have all stuck with her. "When I'm going through something that's monumental to me, whether it's good or bad, I have to write about it. Even if I've moved away from that chapter, I can still tap into how I felt at the time to write. That's what happened with more - the chorus and half the verse were 2-3 years old." The manner in which Bow Promise switches effortlessly between vocal deliveries betrays her experience and maturity. Whilst her husky voice barks and bites on "Cactus", her wispy R&B falsetto slides down like vanilla ice cream on "More".

Bow Promise succinctly describes her sound as "atmospheric, experimental R&B", and although that may not give away a hell of a lot, there really is no other way to describe the duet with her producer (and artist in his own right) Lostchild, "Fall To Earth". Lostchild's epic and melancholic chorus is contrasted by an airy, bubbly verse that Promise delivers so effortlessly and lightly it threatens to float away entirely. The track is less chorus driven than the other two, but it's an existential vibe that suggests more experimentation in future material.

And indeed, Bow hints at a more emotional journey ahead of her. "The sounds (of my upcoming material) will be similar to all that you hear with the Cactus EP," she begins, "but some of the tracks will be more sentimental as I begin to step away from the relationship and delve a bit deeper into myself, as I started to do on "Fall To Earth" - There's a lot of expression of faith, hope and facing your fears."

Speaking of faith and hope, I'm told the name Bow Promise refers to "the promise of a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow". Having had many setbacks in her past career, both personal and professional, the quality and emotional depth of the Cactus EP suggests that her pot of gold may be closer than she thinks.

You can download her Cactus EP for free from her Official Website.

Follow her Twitter and Facebook accounts below for the latest details on gigs and new material.

- Joe Copplestone, 12/09/13

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