Even though it was ostensibly a folk album, teenager Raf Batchelor’s last album as Solo Project was so much more than that with the thirst for experimentation clearly coursing through his veins. If the follow-up focuses on a particular genre it would be electro pop.
‘Panda Hat’ begins rather incongruously with ‘March Of Modernity’ and its somewhat random collection of space-y beats, hip hop and Batchelor’s tremulous vocals. There’s a wonderfully rhythmic flow to ‘Cinamon Swirls’, emphasised by Batchelor’s impassioned falsetto whereas the throbbing electronics of ‘Devotion’ provide the perfect platform for the kind of soulful crooning which you would expect from someone twice Batchelor’s age. Elsewhere he projects great warmth on ‘All That Comes Before’, contrasting with the bruising and grungy ‘Mistakes’ and the proggy pop of ‘Guide Me’ proves that he can maintain interest on longer songs.
It has to be said, quality control isn’t always maintained through the length of the album but Batchelor hits more than he misses and – lest we forget – he has yet to reach his twentieth birthday. In short, ‘Panda Hat’ is heartily recommended for those with a penchant for bedroom studio pop with wayward yet soulful vocals.
Bandcamp Stream for Solo Project – Panda Hat
Unknown Component, James Blake