People Who Are Addicted To Music
The lineup: Dornik (vocals, music).
The background: There have been several attempts recently to launch a UK response to the modernist R&B of the Weeknd, Frank Ocean and Miguel, but Dornik has the potential to be the very best, and it’s probably because he sounds the least British of the homegrown soul contenders. There is only one track at the moment, Something About You, but it is stunning: the gossamer shiver of Michael Jackson in the sublimest production context; MJ had he lived to work with the exact right current producers, with a perfect blend of the now and then, nodding to the 1980s while being indisputably present-day.
British soul/R&B is perennially terrible, which is to say a weak version of the real (US) thing. Dornik’s is arguably the first decent UK version of a particular strand of sophisticated hi-tech studio-polished black American dance music since Loose Ends and 52nd Street. What a debut – and we use the term advisedly because there is nothing tentative about Something About You. It is fully formed, and by that we mean half-there, barely corporeal, a translucent shimmer from the ghost of a soul man.
Actually, putting myth-mongering to one side for a moment, Dornik used to be Jesse Ware’s drummer and is now signed to PMR, the home of Ware, Two Inch Punch, Julio Bashmore and Disclosure. That label is getting awfully good at this kind of classy with a hint of classic, shiny-but-not-too-smooth, commercial-but-still experimental dance music. There is something about the backing track to Something About You, with its dragging house pulse, flighty bass and glinting synths, that suggests a familiarity with outer-limits electronica: MJ if he came back and collaborated with Washed Out for a series of releases on Flying Lotus and, well, PMR.
Although vocally Dornik almost matches him, with an ache here and a sob there, lyrically, there is no alignment with the tortured hedonism of Toronto’s Abel Tesfaye; it is pure old school romance-schmaltz (“I’ll always be by your side … Girl, I think about you every single second every day, I just can’t help myself babe”, etc) and yet, in this spectacular setting, it feels positively avant-garde. The ambience, heightened by the sleeve, is chillfunk opulence, suggestive of the high life, without the Weeknd’s dark decadence. He may not be Dangerous, even Bad, but this Off the Wall soul is a real Thriller.