New band of the day – No 903: Jamie Woon

You'll love the dark side of the Woon, a Brit School singer-songwriter moving towards dubstep. But his smoother songs ...

Hometown: London.

The lineup: Jamie Woon (vocals, music).

The background: Jamie Woon, like James Blake, is one of those new male artists showing what can happen when you combine conventionally strong soulful vocals with dubstep's eerie spaciousness and resonant production techniques. The difference between the two of them is this: whereas James Blake was dubstep and is now moving towards "the song", Jamie Woon was first and foremost a singer-songwriter influenced by soul and the music of his professional folkie mum (who sang backing vocals for everyone from Björk to Stock Aitken Waterman) and has now made a decision to shift towards dubstep. The problem – or the convenience for commissioning magazine and newspaper music editors – is that they've reached the same point at the same time.

Woon's voice can be overpowering at times, and sometimes you want the music – the little sonic effects and rhythmic tricks – to be left alone: "Space to breathe and time to savour," as he sings on his new single, Night Air. Right, exactly. You can sort of tell he's a Brit School kid: he's a showboy who's somehow found himself in the twitching heart of dubstep. It makes sense that he's toured as support to Amy Winehouse – he could fill a room, an arena, with that voice. He hasn't quite left that world behind, even as he heads towards Planet Dubstep – live, he is flanked by his band comprising bassist Blue from (according to the press release) the "nascent south London soul scene" and Reso, a "new school dubstepper" (and another former Brit pupil). So there you have it: an arrangement that formally sets out his intention to ally soulful warmth and cool beat science.

Woon, who shares his east London house with the members of the Mercury-nominated Portico Quartet, has been compared by Mary Anne Hobbs to Jeff Buckley, but to us his honeyed tones with a hint of husky have more in common with 90s London space-soul wunderkind Lewis Taylor (with the gruesome spectre of Jay Kay hovering in the distance). Listen to Spirits – virtually a cappella, just Woon and his voice multitracked using a looping device he appears to be manipulating on this live YouTube footage with his foot – and it's uncannily similar to Taylor's Spirit. Nothing wrong with that; it's about time Taylor got his props, wherever he is, because he has apparently absented himself from music altogether and removed all signs of himself from the net.

At its best, Woon's music is a successful realisation of that cliched idea about "21st-century blues". It's roots music brought up to date. The 27-year-old, who loves JJ Cale and is about to tour with Vashti Bunyan, says: "Blues is at the root of all popular music. Blues and bass – that's the real hybrid." When you hear him unadorned, for example on his stripped-down version of traditional song Wayfaring Stranger, he is more James Morrison than James Blake. He's better the more electronic he gets, and luckily there's something about him that makes dubsteppers want to use him as a blank canvas: Burial has remixed him, and it's the "Ramadanman Refix" of as much as the original of Night Air that people are raving about. And no wonder – it's seven minutes of far-out astral soul, a showcase for the remixer as well as the singer. As long as he keeps getting the balance right between singing and studio sorcery, Woon should be alright.

The buzz: "A special talent who will carve his blues- and bass-infused pop songs into your brain and leave them there forever" –

The truth: We love the dark side of the Woon, not the smooth side.

Most likely to: Want to attack us with a saw when he sees that Jay Kay reference.

Least likely to: Record with the killer from Saw.

What to buy: Night Air is released by Candent in December, followed by his debut album in spring 2011.

File next to: James Blake, Mount Kimbie, Lewis Taylor, Stevie Wonder.


Monday's new band: Outer Limit Recordings.


Paul Lester

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Jamie Woon – review

An elusive post-dubstepper who loops his own voice to haunting effect, Jamie Woon is an intriguing talent and one to watch in 2011, says Kitty Empire

Kitty Empire

28, Nov, 2010 @12:09 AM

Jamie Woon: Mirrorwriting – review
Jamie Woon's cutting-edge debut risks being seen as too commercial for the dubstep in-crowd yet too challenging for the mainstream, writes Kitty Empire

Kitty Empire

16, Apr, 2011 @11:05 PM

Jamie Woon: Mirrorwriting - review
Don't be misled by the minimalism, says Hazel Sheffield, Jamie Woon's debut is slick but uninventive

Hazel Sheffield

14, Apr, 2011 @9:39 PM

Article image
Jamie Woon: Making Time review – excellent, soul-styled second album
Jamie Woon shifts away from the dancefloor somewhat on his terrific, soulful second album

Lanre Bakare

05, Nov, 2015 @10:00 PM

Article image
Five albums to try this week: Jamie Woon, Floating Points and more
Stream new albums, from Katy Carr’s jazzy folk to Bill Ryder-Jones’ gentle alt-rock, and let us know what you’ll be listening to

Tshepo Mokoena

09, Nov, 2015 @10:50 AM

Article image
Jamie Woon: Making Time review – back with soul and pared-back purpose
He took his time but the London-born singer-songwriter has come up with a crisp second album

Killian Fox

08, Nov, 2015 @8:00 AM

Article image
Jamie Woon: 'I've always wanted to make pop'
Tipped as dubstep's first true pop star, he is the face of a shadowy subculture. But, he tells Paul Lester, while music is in his blood, fame is harder to deal with

Paul Lester

27, Jan, 2011 @10:00 PM

Article image
Jamie Woon: 'It's hard to be funky if you're English'
As this year’s BBC Sound of poll longlist is announced, former nominee discusses how to swerve the hype, overcome an identity crisis, and his nu-soul album, Making Time

Harriet Gibsone

30, Nov, 2015 @1:42 PM

Article image
Jamie Woon review – triumphant reinvention as a transfixing soul man
Jamie Woon erases any thoughts of past career false starts with an exquisite set of precise and soulful R&B

Ian Gittins

12, Nov, 2015 @11:44 AM

Jamie Woon – review
The audience seem to like Woon best when he abandons experimentation for straightforward pop, writes Alexis Petridis

Alexis Petridis

09, Jun, 2011 @4:11 PM