Rich and textured, soulful and smutty, Collard’s debut album Unholy is an extraordinary breakthrough effort by a talented new voice. Joining the growing ranks of artists shirking genre-norms for something more eclectic, Collard makes a thrilling proposition, blending elements of funk, soul and pop seamlessly with guest rap and spoken word. The result is a slick, cogent debut that is near-perfect in its longing, retro-futuristic groove.
Breaking into ‘Hell Song’ with all the smut and funk of a Prince song (though, crucially, cheese-free), Unholy sets its precedent. It’s a heady ride from back to front, pulsing through with auto-wah guitar, cocksure grooves and soulful falsetto; each pirouette through influence and genre delivering a new dopamine hit, emerging totally unpredicted but never jarring.
This genre-disorientation lends a shimmering sense of intoxication, combining with the nostalgic force of Collard’s voice to give a retro-futuristic sense of looking ahead to the future in wonder. Unholy remembers what times past expected of the future, and lives in its present: updated and current, but still shaking with a hopeful mid-century glow.
Stand out ‘Greyhound’ pulses with a disco chorus, while the gorgeous ‘Murder Murder’ incorporates more of an electronic groove, shot through with throbs of guitar, and finishing up with one of the album’s many tantalising solos. Another of these concludes Unholy with the longing ‘Blood Red’ - another surprise to add to Collard’s full-house.
The guitar work in this LP is masterful; a light touch here and a climactic shiver there, buoying up Collard’s feline vocals from the opening hedonism of ‘Hell Song’, to the swelling euphoria of ‘Blood Red.’
Then there’s the vocals. The soulful, emotional wrench of ‘Warrior Cry’ - the album’s lead single - is a stand-out, with Collard flexing his versatile voice. Throughout Unholy, the vocals are at once modern and vintage, soulful and distant, Collard singing just as well on unique laments as he does on clubland whoops.
‘Sacrament’ twitches with the gentle sound of undergrowth before melting into jazz, while slow-burner ‘Ground Control’ sexes up Major Tom with Bowie-referential lyrics. Still, there’s that modern touch, with Kojey Radical’s compelling rap, and a focus on present day twenty-somethings.
Unholy’s eclecticism is breathtaking. It writhes and swirls in a potent elixir of genre, influence and setting. It finds you in a smoky basement club in 1976 and looks over a darkened glass city in 2025. Intoxicating from beginning to end, Unholy is a groove-laden and anachronistic work that introduces an extraordinary new talent.
Unholy is released on 10 May 2019 via Lost Ones/Virgin EMI.