Review: Nicole Cassandra Smit – Third in Line

Very rarely does a first album showcase as much raw talent and imagination as Cassandra Nicole Smit’s dazzling debut Third in Line. The Edinburgh-based Indonesian-Swedish musician is not afraid to take risks on this LP, melding soul, jazz, hip-hop and electronica into her own sonic elixir. Yet the fluidity and sense of artistry underpinning every track ensures that the album’s experimentalism never undermines its beauty.

Opener ‘Wolves’, a cinematic set-piece carved out in burnished strings and a menacing vocal wail, is certainly an assertive track to kick off an album. Reminiscent of both Amy Winehouse’s ‘Back to Black’ and Shirley Bassey’s bond themes, Smit’s performance is uncompromising, stirring up tension that will be sustained across the album, right until ‘Role Models (director’s cut)’ closes the album out ominously with scratching cello and ghostly echoes.

The most intense cut on the record, however, is the bristling ‘Something Borrowed, Something Blue’. With guttural groans and cold, metallic minimalism, the song takes cues from the dark, cavernous soundscape of Billie Eilish’s debut album.

But Smit is just as capable of entrancing as disturbing. ‘Intonation’ rides a slick, funky groove, setting the mood for Kameelah Waheed’s easy-going rap verse on ‘Quest’. Meanwhile, ‘Sundown (director’s cut)’ echoes the jazzy neo-soul of Erykah Badu as it slinks through a lush, glittering soundscape: suave, sensual and so so cool.

Other tracks teeter ambiguously between beauty and danger. ‘Dragonheart’ juxtaposes a grimey synth pulse with delicate droplets of piano and sweet vocal harmonies, and there’s something haunting yet alluring about the sultry siren call of ‘Sour As Candy’, with its purring trap beat and tingling flamenco guitar.

But no track better encapsulates the album’s interwoven moods better than the shadowy jazz of ‘Lily of the Valley’. With its lithe brass section, eerie, celestial backing vocals, brash, elephantine trumpeting and Smit’s almost robotic harmonies, this loose, experimental collage of a song shouldn’t work at all. But, in a testament to her wildly inventive musicianship, Smit not only pulls it off but turns it into the best song on the album.

Listen to Third in Line on Spotify, Tidal or Bandcamp

Also, I have given in to the internet and finally got myself a Twitter account. Follow me!


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