James Chatburn is a rising, Sydney-born, Berlin-based singer/songwriter and producer. Since relocating to the German capital back in 2015, Chatburn has carved out a reputation for being a highly in-demand singer/songwriter and producer, who has collaborated with acclaimed Aussie hip-hop outfit Hilltop Hoods‘ certified Gold single “Higher,” rum.gold, Jordan Rakei, Noah Slee, Sedric Perry, and a growing list of others. As a solo artist, the Sydney-born, Berlin-based JOVM mainstay has developed and honed a sound that meshes elements of soul, blues, electro pop, neo-soul and psych pop with the release of his full-length debut, 2020’s David Tobias co-produced Faible.
During the lead-up to Fabile‘s release, I managed to write about three of the album’s singles:
- “In My House,” a warm and vibey, two-step inducing bit of soul, centered around introspective, earnest songwriting, reverb-drenched guitars and thumping beats.
- “Jewellery and Gold,” one of the album’s more tongue-in-cheek tracks, featuring a narrator looking forward to a future, where he’s flush with cash, and as a result, any of the major issues of his life being settled with that newfound cash — because dollar dollar bill y’all.
- “The Hurt,” a ballad that saw the Aussie-born, German-based JOVM mainstay express longing and heartache in a way that reminded me quite a bit of Nick Hakim.
Chatburn’s highly-anticipated sophomore album Late Night Howling officially dropped today. And if you’ve been following this site over the past month, you might recall that I wrote about “Do You Wanna Live Like That,” feat. Noah Slee, an expansive and mind-bending take on neo-soul and pop centered around a unique and woozily dynamic song structure that rapidly shifts in tone, time signature and instrumentation: The song’s introduction begins with twinkling pianos in a Latin jazz like tempo before quickly shifting to tweeter and woofer rattling trap beats and then shifting again to a vibey 70s neo-soul-inspired coda.
Lyrically, the song is intimate and introspective, with its narrator vacillating between self-doubt, analysis, progression and gratefulness. “‘Do You Wanna Live Like That’ is a track I created which ended up kind of being a few different tracks in one, inspired by people like Tyler, The Creator with just these sudden drops and Sault with this vibe – simple not perfect, but just perfectly imperfect,” James Chatburn explains. “Noah Slee and I have been friends basically since we both moved to Berlin, it just took 7 years but we finally got around to releasing a track together.”
Late Night Howling‘s latest single “Some Kind of Fool” sonically is indebted to Quiet Storm-meets-classic, late 60s-mid 70s psych soul as it’s centered around an arrangement of shimmering Rhodes, supple and sinuous bass lines, some metronomic time keeping, squiggling bursts of funk guitar and a soaring string arrangement serving as an ethereal and brooding bed for Chatburn, who fittingly adopts a yearning and heartbroken falsetto for most of the song. Although the song’s narrator is heartbroken and deceived, they have taken some degree of power back by clearly calling out someone, who has manipulated and exploited them.
“This song is about noticing being taken advantage of by other people and manipulated, but taking power over that situation by noticing it and calling out the behaviour,” Chatburn explains. “When producing and performing this song I wanted to land somewhere between Cleo Sol, Shuggie Otis, and Curtis Mayfield, I was like fuck it, I love it, I am going to make one of these songs.”
Directed by Dhanesh Jayaselan and featuring set design by Shari Annabel Marks, the accompanying video for “Some Kind of Fool” is an ethereal, fever dream that features an entirely black-clad Chatburn with his entirely white-clad backing band performing the song in a mistily lit, loft space. Local dancers — Nino Benito Marks, Kandi Alum and Lara Scheiber — perform some free, floating movements to the song’s slow-burning groove, and it gives the entire affair a woozy and floating feel.