When holistically looking back at Dawn Richard’s16- year profession, no one could’ve foreseen that she would blossom into the conceptual and visionary artiste that she is today.

Both groups were eventually temporary and tales of unsatisfied capacity.

The shapeshifter is now back with her 6th studio album ‘Second Line: An Electro Revival’. An inspired body of work re-imagining her home town of New Orleans as an afrofuturist ecosystem. An universes where the structure of electronic music can evade harshness with the city’s history of jazz, blues, R&B and funk.

The title of the album directly draws from the New Orleans custom of second line parades. Area street celebrations led by dynamic brass bands in event of the deceased. The “very first line” describes the grand marshal or parade leader leading the procession. The “2nd line” is comprised of ready individuals who follow the band and form a commune of limitless expression.

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With ‘Second Line: An Electro Revival’, Dawn cleverly re-interprets the native and historic customs of her forefathers to rejoice at the death of old-fashioned views in the music industry.

Expounding on King Creole’s characterisation, Dawn states: “King Creole is this half android/half human. Her journey as an assassin is a fight with duality. Half of her becomes part of this industry. Constructed to comprehend what it means to be a product. However her human side has a great deal of pain as a result of that”.

The internal dispute that King Creole sustains heavily informs the sequencing of the albums 16 tracks. The first half oscillates between the genres of Chicago footwork, home, bounce music, Hip-Hop and Caribbean-flavoured pop. An illustration of Creole’s android side. Radiating defiance, cockiness and kinetic energy. More ambient, sparse and downtempo, the 2nd half channels Zero 7, Bjork, Imogen Heap and the production of William Orbit.

The avant-garde however bluesy ‘Voodoo (Intermission)’ is at the crossway of these 2 extremely various halves. A moment of truth where the residue of Creole’s suppressed emotions begins coming to the fore. “This is when we see a transition to the human side. You get lyrics, vocals and vulnerability. An insight into that duality I myself have actually continuously been combating within this market”.

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The inclusion of Dawn’s own experiences into King Creole’s story with tracks like ‘Le Petit Morte (a lude)’, ‘The Potter’ and ‘Perfect Storm’ recommends ‘Second Line’ has a symbiotic relationship with her 2015 release ‘Blackheart’. The dark and solemnly 2nd instalment in her ‘Heart’ trilogy of Nordic and middle ages inspired albums. Beginning with 2013’s ‘Goldenheart’ and concluding with 2016’s ‘Redemption’, they were an expedition of her battles within a market that can be luring however exceptionally sinister.

‘ brand-new breed’, Dawn’s inaugural release after the conclusion of the ‘Heart Trilogy’ intimated that she had moved on from this narrative. With ‘new type’ and ‘Second Line’, the story is still the exact same, but it is now actively done with New Orleans as the real storyteller”.

Like numerous New Orleans citizens, the disastrous blow of Hurricane Katrina would have a countless effect on Dawn. After spells between Baltimore and LA, Dawn moved back to New Orleans after the conclusion of the ‘Redemption’ period, permitting Dawn to fully recover her NOLA roots with a credibility that she wasn’t completely able to gain access to before.

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If ‘brand-new breed’ was the story of Dawn being re-acquainted with New Orleans and acclimatising to its post-Katrina model, ‘Second Line: An Electro Revival’ is Dawn taking action. With the advent of PapaTeds, her vegan bakery business, Dawn is currently including to the enrichment of New Orleans in terms of economics and product methods.

The sci-fi influence of those films were subsequently woven into the visuals for ‘Bussifame’, ‘Pilot (a lude)’ and ‘FiveOhFour (a lude)’. Intentionally directed and shot with a Do It Yourself and grimy feel, they are Dawn’s visual manifesto of a post-apocalyptic New Orleans.

In order to convincingly draw up her vision of building a New Orleans with futuristic leanings, Dawn’s method to the record as a manufacturer had to be very methodical and mathematical. “I wished to make a second line record without having a brass band. For me, it had to do with what is the time signature of a second line? What are the metres utilized and how do I apply that within in the electronic area?”

The ode to Larry Heard ‘Fond memories’ and the nu-disco groove of ‘Boomerang’ are evidence that these 2 worlds aren’t so musically incompatible. Astutely blending genres typically characteristic of NOLA like funk, swing and Afro-Cuban music to create tracks that are nevertheless and unquestionably electronic. “That’s why I called it ‘An Electro Revival’. I’m attempting to develop a possibility where the pad and synth can be cohesive and reside in the same world as the electric guitar, the trumpet, the trombone and even the singing run”.

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The valiant aspiration to wage an “electro revival” isn’t simply unique to New Orleans.

Dawn is hoping that the new album will spark a brand-new motion where black creatives in electronic areas can begin unifying. Working horizontally as a system to develop an increase of black representation. Mentioning the foundation currently being done by the likes of Make Techno Black Again, Ash Lauryn, LSDXOXO, Honey Dijon, Occupant Forever, Aluna Francis, Jayda G and Rave Reparations, Dawn stated “A lot of people understand that we’re doing not have here. I’m just hoping that the more sound I make, we can lift eachother up and start moving the dial”.

The strange and anomalous trajectory of Dawn’s career positions her in a lineage of progressive Black women like Betty Davis, Grace Jones, LaBelle, Skin (lead singer of Skunk Anansie), Fefe Dobson, Kelis and Meshell Ngeochello. Trendsetters that were ahead of their time. Critics might still be catching up, however Dawn Richard’s career is a remarkable story of how one can be regularly versatile in methods beyond comprehension. “Nothing about my trajectory has been traditional. My entire career has been “Huh ???” and I like it”.

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A proudly independent artist years prior to mainstream discourse around the requirement of significant labels started to surface. She was likewise among the very first artist to experiment with VR, long prior to Childish Gambino, Travis Scott, Gorillaz and Think of Dragons incorporated the medium into their live shows. With a back catalogue boasting hypnotic jobs like 2010’s ‘Last Train To Paris’ and 2012’s ‘Armor On’, Dawn is undoubtedly among the most innovative and fundamental R&B artists of the last 15 years. And now she’s the most recent signee to Merge Records, an indie label whose pedigree is predicated on alternative rock music.

When asked whether she holds any umbrage about the reality that her potential to be a mainstream star was foiled for factors beyond her control or power, she fittingly mentions the gospel communicated in ‘Radio Free’. “There’s never ever an unhappiness that I’m not that. I understand that I do not chart like everyone else. I am free in this. I can dance in this. I play that liberty loud”.

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‘ Second Line: An Electro Revival’ is out now.

Words: Sope Soetan/ @SopeSoetan

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