Aruba Red – Shadow Work: EP Review

Shadow Work is the follow up to Aruba Red’s critically acclaimed Holy Waters EP.

Released: 6th March 2020

Label: Travelling Child

Format: CD / Digital

According to Aruba Red, Shadow Work is a collection of songs that ‘purify a lifetime of toxicity.’ Much like her previous EP, Holy Waters, Shadow Work is packed full of emotional experiences that this brilliant artist has endured over the years.

With each song, Aruba Red takes another small step on the personal redemptive journey that she is on. Along with co-writer, producer and musician, Renell Shaw, the songs on Shadow Work are a brilliant mix of soul, jazz, R & B, trip-hop style beats, all topped with Aruba Red’s beautiful and bewitching voice.

The beauty that comes in the music contradicts the lyrical subject matter; Aruba Red sings of the abusive marriage that she was involved with in the past, as well as many other dark times in her life.

Lead single, Blue, is a superb opener. The keyboard led introduction is meshed with the wonderful vocals. A slow beat and chiming guitar is reminiscent of Prince at his most soulful; you can picture The Purple One standing in the shadows adding the guitar licks that adorn the song. A lamenting solo also heightens the tears shed in the song.

Release Me is a song that is a hard listen, lyrically. Whilst it might be hard for a listener, there is no amount of empathy that could put you in the position of Aruba Red as she pours every ounce of emotion of a toxic relationship into the song to try and truly exorcise the past. Lyrics of abuse, being kicked out of the car when ‘eight months gone,’ not being able to shake the negative memories and just all round heartache. It is a brave song that is complimented by the stunning music. The bass is hypnotic and the way in which Aruba Red uses her voice to sing the chorus is rousing.

For the heaviness that Release Me brings, Change feels more optimistic. There is still a sorrowful tone in things but the choral flourishes and spoken word of a child talking about being kind to yourself and loving yourself is enough to bring a huge element of warmth.

Trust and Butterfly bookend the EP with more lyrical light. The whole of the EP feels like the sound of someone coming out of the darkness. Butterfly sees the end spark into life with the beat almost becoming a drum and bass affair. Flute from Asian Dub Foundation’s Nathan ‘Flutebox’ Lee helps conjure the image of a butterfly spreading its wings and starting its next chapter from its life as a pupa.

Aruba Red has created a great selection of songs on Shadow Work that can comfort, console, and give hope to anyone. Licks of Erykah Badu, Prince, Nitin Sawhney (a mentor to Aruba Red) and Portishead all coalesce to make a delightful mix.

You can read Aruba Red’s ‘Why I Love’ piece that she wrote for At The Barrier on Erykah Badu, here.

Aruba Red: Official Website / Facebook / Twitter

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