Innocent Tswamuno and Dan Song first met at the 2009 Grammy Camp, a 5-day summer music industry program for high school students who have an interest in making their career in music. With vastly different backgrounds -- Innocent is from Zimbabwe and Dan is from South Korea -- the two bonded over a shared affinity for complex multi-instrumental arrangements. Before long, however, the two parted ways and settled in Los Angeles and New York. But this distance didn't hamper their enthusiasm for collaboration, and they managed to work on their own material while also sending each other various songs to experiment on.
Innocent wound up producing and guesting on records from various east coast hip-hop and R&B acts as he developed his own hybrid electronic-soul aesthetic. Dan would go on to get his degree in audio production and settle into session work in Los Angeles. But everything changed in 2016 when Innocent shared a new song with Dan -- there was nothing necessarily remarkable about this; they'd shared countless tracks before. But during the course of this particular online recording session, something just clicked, and they decided to officially start work on a duo. Taking the mantle of TIDES, they subsequently holed up in a Brooklyn studio and began work on what was to be their debut EP.
"Crossroads" is the culmination of those sessions, a 4-track soul-soaked R&B cascade that touches on aspects of neo-soul, funk and electronic music with an unreserved adoration. And while that affection can sometimes lead them to cling a bit too closely to established trends when it comes to these sounds, they do succeed in creating something that feels vibrant and full of authentic emotion. Opening track "Don't Let Me Down" borrows a good deal from the Stevie Wonder songbook (although that's not always a bad thing) and surrounds the honeyed melodies with clever arrangements and vintage soul attitude.
"Lovely Day" combines a graceful collection of piano chords with clacking percussion and Innocent's persuasive vocal insight. The song feels timeless and makes the case that you can channel the ghosts of your influences without losing your own sense of individuality. "Crossroads" has an almost hymnal quality to it, evoking both Sunday mornings in church and nights where the darkness seems to be creeping a little c,loser than normal. Choices have to be made and consequences accepted, and "Crossroads" makes it clear that the options aren't always so black and white. The album ends with "Something," a track that feels a bit more modern in its approach, bringing in some hip-hop rhythms and nostalgia-laced R&B melodies to highlight the emotional and musical malleability of their sound.
These songs explore a wide range of ideas and experiences, tackling subjects like ambition, love, heartache, insecurity and freewill with a spry and affectionate style. These songs have an obvious fondness for classic soul and funk but also explore a wider range of genres than might be expected. By assimilating bits and pieces of hip-hop and R&B into their fascination for Stax and Motown, they build a considerable tower of noise that plays to their strengths as musical omnivores. "Crossroads" is inextricably linked with the nostalgia of its influences, but it's also a pure and refined vision of what a classic soul record would sound like if it was released today.