Album Review: Nocturnal Sunshine, ‘Nocturnal Sunshine’
One of the most effective ways an artist can differentiate new work from past work is by deciding to release material under a new name. When English-born producer Maya Jane Coles first ventured into electronic programming in the early 2000s at the age of 15, she was initially drawn to making downtempo music in the trip-hop, "chillout" vein along with more traditional-styled hip-hop. By the time she first made a public splash later in the decade, she had embraced dance music full-on. But on her first album under her new pseudonym Nocturnal Sunshine, Coles looks backward and forward at the same time, revisiting the atmospheric textures of her early work while also taking her music in an experimental direction that sounds strikingly contemporary.
The official press release for the album describes the music as "eminently dark -- at times menacing." To be sure, Coles probes into matters of the heart that have no place on the dancefloor. But even where Nocturnal Sunshine isn't dance-able (and much of it actually is in a hazy, hard-to-define kind of way) it's not as if she abandons her sense for what makes an arrangement pop. And if this music is indeed "dark" (perhaps "elegantly somber" and "incisive" are better descriptors), that darkness is only compelling because Coles is so proficient at taking the glittery sonics of dance music and using them to illuminate what's in the shadows. Fairly or unfairly, dance music and substance can often appear mutually exclusive. But with Nocturnal Sunshine, Maya Jane Coles proves that she's just the right person to show that they don't have to be.