July has an almost incredible ability to combine his influences into a coherent whole, while also conveying tremendous power and gravity via deceptively simple melodies and arrangements. His latest single release, “Flatline” is built around a slow-burning, entwined rhythm, and a subtle bass-driven groove, which leaves enough room for warm keypads, skittering hi-hats, and plenty of harmony play. The song slinks along with unparalleled effortlessness as July’s voice emerges from the mix, in a smooth stretch of soul-searching sass. There’s a lovely tentativeness that makes his voice so tender and appealing when he wants it to be, and in every moment it illuminates what’s been missing in R&B for far too long.
“Flatline” is his fourth release, following the success of his previous single “Catalina”. Sprinkled in clever, smartly considered percussive flourishes, the production applies real intelligence in keeping the entire piece so unremittingly economical while still completely lush sounding.
Accordingly, “Flatline” is a study in deceptive restraint and minimalism. The multi-layered, harmonic vocals, on the other hand, adds a special kind of alchemy to July’s voice, in one of the record’s many ingenious turns.
“Flatline” is riddled with the kind of hidden elaborate twists and turns that you can get totally lost in – however many times you hear them, you always come out the other side feeling like you’ve picked up on something new.
The new decade’s slew of R&B songwriters have plenty of time to top this track, but I still wouldn’t hold my breath; it’s hard to imagine anybody absolutely nailing the vulnerable nuancing, yet impacting potency like July did with this track. One of the track’s greatest strength lies in July’s understanding of how to create mood by weaving a poignant instrumental and vocal palette.
“Flatline” is truly great. It’s a track scored with tiny intricacies; the little instrumental turns of phrase and carefully woven vocal textures make this a masterfully constructed project. It is at once both intimate and imposing. What’s remarkable about “Flatline”, is how fresh July sounds when slotted next to most modern R&B artists.
The beauty of this record is in the balance between tightly constructed harmonies and melodies, and the more free-flowing sense of rhythm and percussion. This is music that could be made at any period. Timelessness is an overstatement.
If records like “Flatline” came around more frequently, most listeners would throw their hands up in the air in joy, because this is sheer perfection. Everything from July’s voice to crackle of the handclap is treated with a delicate mastery.
An artist of uncompromising power and originality, July has proven that he will not, and cannot conform to the expectations of the music industry, as he is busy carving out his own lane. July is a man of prodigious talent, and on “Flatline”, he demonstrates as much. Honestly, it doesn’t really matter which angle you take with “Flatline”. It’s a masterwork from all of them.