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llluminatè Steele, is a multi-talented musician, published poet, producer, video editor and director. She started her career as a DJ and promoter in both Portland and Washington DC, and has since developed her own signature avant-garde synth wave sound which mixes 80’s vibes with modern cutting edge grooves. Her latest music video release “A Darker Shade of Heaven” features MN burlesque royalty, Elektra Cute. The track was mixed at Terrarium Studios in Minneapolis, MN and mastered at Rare Form by Greg Reierson (Prince/The Cure).

llluminatè Steele is a walking superlative. She can do dance routines, infect with her angelic lilt, and preach seduction through her gaze. An added dose of ambition turns her art into spectacle. The twist is how all of that isn’t what’s at the core of her creativity. It’s her self-awareness, and the search of it.

The track’s movements flow like natural metamorphosis rather than wild swings thanks to llluminatè’s voice. “A Darker Shade of Heaven” finds her continuously rediscovering new crevices in her vocal range, she switches from a serenade, to a gasp, and then a deep-throated whisper.

It leads to an emotive performance: how she softly pants with yearning, how her airiness adds an extra velvet layer to the breakdown, how it’s sensuality gives a sense of empathy. For a track that’s meant to be dark and mysterious, “A Darker Shade of Heaven” shines because of how it slowly lets us in. This demonstrates that llluminatè Steele is a compelling force.

It’s the equivalent of an oozing, slow-paced romp in the tradition of Barry White and Marvin Gaye, performed by Grace Jones on top of an eighties Madonna beat. A seemingly contrasting artistic equation, but an extremely explosive one, if you sit down and contemplate of it. Well you don’t even have to contemplate it, you can actually listen to track and watch the video of “A Darker Shade of Heaven” to get the gist of what I mean.

This gem deserves your attention. llluminatè’ is on a creative high, and artistically she has something important to say. The song is mature but fleet-footed, somehow as poignant as it is entertaining to listen to or watch, as llluminatè’ balances sexuality and seduction.

“A Darker Shade of Heaven” is a record that sounds aware of what’s happening on the radio right now but not particularly interested in conforming to its trends. It is a master class in how to make a grown-ass pop record — these days a disappointingly rare commodity.

This track has shaped up to be an intriguing listen, while the video also deserves a special mention due to its superlative production and provocative imagery. Both llluminatè Steele and Elektra Cute fill the frames with enterprising awareness that will captivate you.

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Illuminatè Steele: A Darker Shade of Heaven (featuring Elektra Cute) from Illuminate Steele on Vimeo.

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