Nobody ever says it to my face but I’m sure among friends I am often quietly referred to as the Wynter Whisperer. My manic love, appreciation and unwavering support for the New York-born singer/songwriter has earned me the much coveted status of premier Wynter Gordon stan in Australia*.
However, I have to admit that even in my infinite faith, I wasn’t sure if Wynter’s experimental departure from dance pop would be something I can handle. I was worried that there might be some throat singing and communicating with whales a la Björk’s Medúlla. To exacerbate my reasons for concern, I had heard some dodgy live recording of Gordon performing the then-unnamed project’s lead single ‘Stimela’ months ago and I immediately furrowed my brows.
The great news about Human Condition: Pt. 1 Doleo – and, in fact, ‘Stimela’ too – is that this is the beginning of what’s possibly the most exciting anthology pop music gazers will experience this year.
The ‘Dirty Talk’ singer is wisely expanding her musical identity and fan base by setting off on an independently-released, four-part series of free download EPs titled Human Condition - all of which will explore a different emotion.
Part one – Doleo – propels her fans to a new soundscape, traversing organic musical textures and honest lyrical landmarks that complements the tone set by ‘Still Getting Younger’ and ‘Back to You’, two personal tracks on her debut LP With The Music I Die.
The word “doleo” means pain in Latin and that should really be your first hint of the kinda “well of inspiration” Gordon will be drawing from.
The project’s key track ‘Stimela’ marries atmospheric synths with crisp African percussion that resonate well with its passionate chorus, sung in Zulu. The track stems from Hugh Masekela‘s anti-apartheid song of the same name and it is absolutely bewitching to the ears right from the very first listen.
I distinctly recall downloading the track the day before I flew out to London and I literally had it on repeat for three hours straight in jaw-dropping awe of Gordon’s vocal performance and ability to immerse herself in a genre that seemed so distant from the kind she made her name with.
Watch the stunning video for ‘Stimela’, which was directed by Wynter herself:
Doleo also unveils some spectacular essences of vintage Phil Collins, Kate Bush and even a little Red Hot Chilli Peppers - again, do a double take if you were just guzzling alcopop to her stroblit hit ‘Dirty Talk’. You can definitely trace the journey Wynter has been on in these compositions, especially noting that she’s now touring with a live band and has likewise grown into a different kind of artist and performer.
There are no rose coloured glasses worn on this record. The 26-year old singer packs a fuck load of brutal honesty on tracks like ‘Kids’, a song about someone she grew up admiring who lost his way and gave up on himself. “I learned to forgive, let go of the pain. But you’re holding on, holding on to the past. You give guilt trips like no other, left your kids without a mother. You know, you used to be my hero…”
Elsewhere, there are explorations of past guilts on ‘Bad Thing’. Here Wynter re-sets the scene over a layer of distortion and 8-bit drums, “It was July when I made a commitment, I was your world and then I got distant. I put up my fences, I said my goodbyes. I left you with questions, not many answers. I did a bad thing.”
However, it’s not all wall-to-wall raw confessional downtempos. There’s the uplifting ’Waiting’, Wynter’s doe-eyed ode to clinging on a relationship that was built on time. Frankly, this track deserves a video and one that’s possibly some kind of sequel to ‘Still Getting Younger’?
Doleo expresses the breadth of Wynter’s songwriting abilities in a way we haven’t seen before. I believe Diana [I've actually never called her by her real name because that would be weird, like if she were to call me by mine] had always written songs in vastly different genres, only it was closeted from the world in a bid to fashion her into pop star.
Wynter has created a separate Soundcloud account and mini-website for this side project to distance herself from her official major label pop repertoire. In fact, her official website still flogs her With The Music I Die EP and the home page doesn’t feature any links to download Doleo, which kinda makes it look rather redundant right now.
Our girl still very much has her deal with Atlantic/Warner Music Australia, but the way I see it, this is a genius way to expand her fan base and honour her creative itch without spending her major label coupons.
I suppose when the time is right, she’ll utilise their resources to put out a commercial album or single, but this side project that’s happening right here right now is completely relevant and essential in building Wynter Gordon up as a vital artist for many more years to come.
Passion, depth, authenticity and growth – these, to me, feel like the cornerstones of why Doleo and the rest of the Human Condition EPs should be on your watch list. Regardless of where you’ve stepped in from, whether it was Wynter’s early R&B demos of ‘Surveillance’ and ‘What is Love?’ or through the sparkly pop portal of With The Music I Die, this talented young woman’s evolving artistry is just perking up to wildly exciting times.
I am incredibly optimistic about this new direction – just like I would with anything that honours an artist’s creativity and carries their heart. I do believe with this newfound liberation and brazen audacity, the best is still to come with Wynter Gordon.
Listen to Wynter’s Human Condition: Pt. 1 Doleo in full here:
Grab your free download of the Doleo EP. The second Human Condition EP – Furor – will be out end of August and will feature an uptempo titled ‘TKO’. Brace yourselves.
* = If you care to challenge this fact, happy to discuss.