tropics

In 2011, Chris Ward aka Tropics was creating the ambient soundtracks to a thousand brokenhearted summers. Back then he was a final year digital student signed to Planet Mu with grand ambitions for his debut album and an impending move to London. But where his debut, ‘Parodia Flare’, paid off on the complex, ambient sound of his early EPs, ‘Rapture’ now sees Tropics emerge in a very different form.

Where the tentative vocals of his first album seemed like an embellishment to Ward’s beautiful soundscapes, here they’re the focal point, soon to be compared to James Blake, presumably if all goes to plan. At their fragile best, the vocals swim from the depths and delightfully bleed into focus as they do on opener ‘Blame’; at their worst, they ooze a Live Lounge smugness, as if Fearne Cotton invited Will Young to overlay the Air back catalogue.

Soothing, soulful, and testament to a young artist’s undoubted ambition, this isn’t about criticising Ward’s voice, it’s more wondering why his intoxicating sound has been relegated to that of a supporting role. Strip back the vocals and there’s no denying his ability to craft incredibly beautiful music – as the gorgeously mournful ‘House of Leaves’ testifies – but in the company of ‘Not Enough’’s altered R&B pop, ‘Rapture’ feels less of a soundtrack to moments of heartbreaking poignancy, and more of the standard playlist to a lazy, rainy Sunday.

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