Jamie Woon may be set for a second coming. Initially pinned as a post-dubstep take on Jeff Buckley when he first appeared in 2011, the London singer-songwriter abruptly vanished off the radar when his somewhat underwhelming debut album, Mirrorwriting, fell short of this ambitious advance critical billing.
Four years down the line, Woon is returning with a vastly superior follow-up, Making Time, which demonstrates just how misguided his initial categorisation was. Far from being a purveyor of faddish electronica, Woon now convincingly presents as a classic soul man, crafting brilliantly questing R&B songs about the inarticulate speech of the heart.
He freely confesses to the influence of D’Angelo on his new material, and tonight, backed by a tight band and two male backing vocalists, he resembles that neo-soul alchemist with his alluring waywardness supplanted by forensic discipline. Woon is no showman but he is a transfixing presence, patently in thrall to a hushed yet vivacious R&B that knows that soul is not about how loudly feelings are expressed, but how precisely.
At times his wisp of a voice is a husk, a languid murmur, yet when he inserts himself into the heft and weave of Aaliyah’s Try Again, it fits him like a second skin. Woon’s artistry is all about subtlety and restraint, yet on the wistfully yearning Shoulda he pours the self-doubt of a long, dark night of the soul into exquisite deep-house pop to intoxicating effect.
Pharrell has expressed large enthusiasm for Woon’s current single, Sharpness, and it is easy to see why: it is a lubricious slice of fantastical sex-funk, as self-aware and audacious as Prince. This time around, it looks as if this consummate craftsman may really be on to something.