You will feel a pang of classic femme-fatale pastiche when listening to debut single No More from The Alley, the new sobriquet of prolific Swedish producer iSHi. Having already released three No.1 UK hits, he returns with an effort that strives to capture that elegant, heartfelt, torch song vibe, echoing the spirit of all-time greats from Dusty Springfield to Adele.
The Stockholm based producer – who has already carved out a successful career by producing platinum selling records with the likes of Tinie Tempah, Professor Green, Rudimental, Rihanna, Stormzy and many more – has professed that this is an alter ego in order to explore a new style of music. “…like Eminem and Marshall Mathers. The Alley is a venture for my timeless songs”.
The opening of No More greets listeners with carefully paced female vocals accompanied with a slow, mournful piano and stirring string arrangement by violinist Erik Arvinder, whose placement together evokes the sense that this will power up to be one epic track. The lyrics continue to be delivered with an understatement and restraint, drenched in plenty of sadness, telling the story of a girl who has fallen out of love, “But don’t hate me/ When I say this/ I know it might be hard/ And I don’t know where to start/ I’m gonna hurt you/ But I have to/ There’s no better words to say/ That I don’t love you that way/ Anymore.” If the tune meanders through safety in the opening, it soars with the arrival of the heavy, grimy percussion, where the vocals seem to drift from timid and melodious to soaring and heartfelt.
The fact that the identity of the female singer, who is giving her heart and soul in this wondrous ballet, remains a mystery, feels like The Alley is more about the musical experience as a whole, rather than relying on the ego of just one powerful woe-is-me vocalist. With No More, he has made a pop song that is mature and theatrically heartbreaking. While this may not be the instant grab that fans of iSHi may have been expecting, this assured taster leaves us wondering what other curveballs he will throw in a follow up album by The Alley.
Words by Dean Robinson