“This Time” by Umii
Eight-song set This Time, the debut project by recently-minted duo Umii, almost works as an exercise to showcase the various contexts where vocalist Reva DeVito and producer B. Bravo pair well together. From club-ready dancehall riddims to bedroom ballads, both shine in their ability to create a sound that consistently feels like a true partnership and not a series of exchanges and updates via DropBox.
Given their creative history prior to This Time, it’s little surprise that their first full-length partnership yields positive results. You can trace their creative roots back to Reva DeVito songs like the summer swing of “Kisses” or their collective take on the Sade classic “The Sweetest Taboo,” a minimized, chilly version that leaves its mark yet remains tasteful. Joyful yearning and subtle restraint are phrases that pop up when listening these tracks, and those sentiments seem to guide much of what’s on Umii’s debut as well.
“Dangerous” kicks things off with a boogie vibe reminiscent of Evelyn “Champagne” King, the song aided forward by DeVito’s cheerful lyrics (“This time, when you walk by, can you see me // See me walking on the ceiling”). “Make Your Move” follows the same radiant vibe, airy synths and buzzy bass adding a youthful vigor that shifts the duo’s sound to the recent realm of future R&B.
“Masquerade,” a scampering R&B half-time ballad with rhythmic reggae accents, catches vocalist DeVito at her most dangerous. Her evocative, relaxed vocals, tinged with reverb, fit well with the song’s mellow tone. At the chorus, her background harmonies help the tune soar. Such moments reveal how DeVito’s efforts can often be overlooked. It’s true that she doesn’t possess an ungodly vocal range or a fiery power, but her ability to craft a catchy melody or pepper in low-key layers in service to her musical canvas show she may not be flashy but she’s certainly astute.
However, that’s not to say DeVito carries this project. LA-based B. Bravo, one half of future bass duo Starship Connection, is adept at creating thoughtful rhythmic playgrounds for DeVito to inhabit. If there’s a through-line to his production on This Time, it’s his bright, soft synth chords. They always seem to hint that, while the drum patterns may change, this project is rooted in R&B seduction and yearning.
“The One,” co-produced by Salva, shows the duo at its most seductive, DeVito’s breathy vocals lending a sensuality to the icy, metallic beat, swirling keys and skittering hi-hats creating a soundscape that emulates the double-edged sword of DeVito’s beckoning. As a listener, you’re enveloped in that energy, yet there’s also a feeling that the space you’re occupying is a distortion field, the product of romantic obsession.
If “the One” feels like an intimate bedroom conversation, “Not Alone” is the other side of the coin, capturing the anxiousness and uncertainty of a late night solo, when your insecurities can’t be swept away by the words and touches of a significant other (“Oh, can it be all just a dream to me? // When I lie awake at night, I know I’m not alone,” sings DeVito, followed by her calling “Tell me it’s okay, it’s okay”).
Hopefully this project stands as the start of a true long-term partnership.
By Brandon Roos – 2018