Loyle Carner got the long Easter weekend under way respectably with a memorable launch for his new album at London’s House of Vans.
Released on 19 April 2019, fervour for Loyle’s sophomore record Not Waving, But Drowning had been building since the release of appetiser tracks Ottolenghi and You Don’t Know.
The South-London raised artist has been rapping and freestyling since the age of ten. A BRIT School alumnus, he bagged a support slot in 2012 for MF DOOM aged seventeen and in 2014, was invited to support American artist Joey BadA$$ on his UK tour. A chance meeting with Kate Tempest led to the collaboration Guts for producer Dan Carey’s Speedy Wunderground – Year 2 project and in the same year, he made his recording debut with EP A Little Late.
In 2017, Mercury Prize nominated debut album Yesterday’s Gone was released to mass critical attention and earned Loyle an NME Award and two BRIT Award nominations. Impressive heights to reach; so his follow up, and the launch, was highly anticipated.
Underground space House of Vans, nestled beneath London’s Waterloo Station, is cavernous but intimate. It fuels creative expression through several channels including music, street culture and fashion and this, together with a friendly, stylish crowd, created a perfectly laidback vibe on the night.
Loyle served up an immersive pre-gig experience. As well as audio-visual installations, a custom menu designed for the in-house cafe and the warm-up DJ mixing big beats with 90s hip-hop nostalgia, the venue’s art gallery hosted an exhibition in partnership with The Other Art Fair and male suicide prevention charity CALM.
Curated by Loyle’s friends and family and some of the UK’s most exciting artists, they created original pieces in response to every track on the new album and the queue snaked around the tunnels.
At 10pm the sound of “1-2, 1-2; check check check” drifted into the air. The house lights went down, Loyle’s name illuminated the stage and he appeared to a euphoric reception, launching straight into his signature flow and eloquent delivery. He modestly thanked everyone ‘very much for coming down’ before the sampled, opening bars of You Don’t Know created a sea of nodding heads and Rebel Kleff bounded on stage.
Fresh energy pumped through the passageways all night, never waning, and so did the noise; I momentarily leaned against the wall to take a peek at my notes and the beats literally pumped through my head and chest and bounced me off the brickwork.
With the gig in full force, Loyle’s magnetism shone bright. He brought us old school flavour Yesterday’s Gone as well as luscious material from his new offering. Florence sounded crisp, with Kwes‘ vocals covered sweetly by the audience who jostled for space, and The Isle of Arran went down a storm, with the crackly sample of S.C.I. Youth Choir’s The Lord Will Make a Way sounding even more potent.
The South London rapper is known for harmonious collaborations and he brought some of his mates along to party, including Jordan Rakei who lends his vocals to Ottolenghi, a song inspired by Loyle’s culinary hero, Yotam Ottolenghi, and a dreamy, standout track on the new record.
On Ain’t Nothing Changed, Loyle delivered laid back tones and his subtle but powerful flow and the infectious guitar riff of NO CD generated an electric atmosphere, the crowd roaring out the chorus.
Not Waving, But Drowning features the artists Sampha, Tom Misch, Jorja Smith and even his beloved Mum, Jean Carner. One of the highlights of the night was Jorja who brought her unique blend of soulful, jazz-tinged cadence and honeyed vocals for a beautiful performance of Loose Ends for the encore.
His lyrics might be poetic, the melodies sublime and the beats undeniably banging but it’s the way in which Loyle wears his heart on his sleeve that keeps him heads above his contemporaries. The wordplay is deeply candid, each track providing a vignette of his life, and he writes about the people he loves unconditionally. It makes it real.
Just after midnight, Loyle took to the stand to personally sign and hand deliver all copies of Not Waving, But Drowning snapped up on the night.
A well deserved rest after bringing the House down.
Words by Nicola Greenbrook and Photography by Nosa Malcolm of Loyle Carner at House Of Vans on 18th April 2019