Born and raised in LA, singer-songwriter Asal Hazel translates the sun-soaked landscape of her surroundings into introspective narratives of loves lost and unfulfilled. On her debut EP, Like Water, she adorns undulating, downbeat R&B productions with her falsetto, absorbing words into her choral textures. It is music for the early hours or for headphone isolation amongst the crowd, an entrancing soundscape underpinned by emotional unease.
“Like Water was essentially my diary entries during a rough time in my life,” Hazel explains, “so what can be heard in my voice was inevitable. Lyrics mean a lot to me and the way I used my voice wasn’t so logically thought out, it was just authentic.” It is this sense of emotional authenticity that captivates the listener throughout, revealing glimpses of lyrics – ‘You told me to/Leave you alone’ on ‘UTMT’ – while otherwise keeping them at one remove from Hazel’s internal narrative, wrapping them up instead in the minimal, tape-worn production of Mndsgn, Knxwledge and Swarvy.
Hazel’s association with this group of Stones Throw producers results in the characteristic Dilla-like swing that features amongst the airy R&B of her record, the expertly-placed Hiatus Kaiyote sample in ‘Smooth Sinner’, and the rattling snares with the Aaliyah-like harp of ‘Only Reason’. For a record so informed by collaboration, though, the writing process was largely one of solitude. “With Like Water it was an emotional process so there weren’t the most structured melodies and a lot of improvisation instead,” Hazel explains, “I like writing in isolation so I can easily be vulnerable.” This vulnerability is felt in the quietude of the EP, inviting the listener to lean in rather than tune out.
Read the feature in Clash Magazine.
[This piece was published on 11/04/18]