Killing My Heart
Harleighblu X Starkiller
Released: 7th Oct, 2016
Label: Tru Thoughts
Out 7th October, “Killing My Heart” is the first short, sharp and unforgettable taste of Harleighblu X Starkiller – a new project that sees fast-rising British soul/electronic singer Harleighblu forming a formidable link-up with LA duo Starkiller (the production outfit of C.E. Garcia & Alfredo E. Fratti, members of Adrian Younge’s Venice Dawn).
The single precedes the ‘Amorine’ LP (4th November), a science fiction film in sonic form: in this tragic future love story, high drama collides with a cool, clean, sci-fi atmosphere via hip hop musical sensibilities that draw on sonic references from psychedelic funk to DJ Shadow to Portishead.
It is no coincidence that this project directly follows Harleighblu’s acclaimed ‘Futurespective’ series of releases, which have been supported across BBC 1Xtra, Radio 1 and 6Music, Okayplayer, Complex, AfroPunk, Clash and beyond. 'Futurespective' found the young singer with eyes on the horizon, pursuing personal and artistic progression and working with cutting edge electronic production talent. Introduced to Harleighblu’s music while she was in the midst of this process, Garcia was struck by her ability to combine an accomplished, classic soul voice with fresh, future beats; “I’d been playing with this idea of making an album that sounded like the future somehow, and I thought 'well this is it – this is the person to work with'”, he affirms.
With his love of film, sci-fi, and graphic novels, and his tendency not to do things by halves, it wasn’t long before Garcia was envisioning an album set in the future, and concocting the story of ‘Amorine’ around which this LP would come to revolve. The dystopian tale was inspired heavily by two sources in particular, which were occupying his brain at the time: the comic book “The Incal” by French artist Mœbius, and the 1971 George Lucas film THX 1138.
The duo sent Harleighblu some instrumental sketches, and “Killing My Heart” was the first song that came back. Providing the perfect foil to their lavish guitars and growling, bass-heavy beat, Harleighblu's emphatic vocal hooks and multi-textured harmonies had Garcia & Fratti excited straight away, kicking off an intriguing creative process which saw the entire album crafted across continents. It was not until Summer 2016, after the record's completion, that Harleighblu and Starkiller had the chance to finally meet in person; Harleighblu was performing in LA – a milestone trip for this rising star, which builds on a strong fanbase and frequent live shows in the UK and Europe.
For Harleighblu’s part, creating a track remotely with producers was familiar turf, but making a full album in this way was an entirely different prospect. Any potential limitations of the process, however, turned out to be freedoms in disguise. “The guys weren't just sending a beat for me to sing over”, she emphasises; “We would go back and forth, each time surprising each other and pushing the other to rethink, or think bigger – it was a different way of building something together”. And while her voice has always been a notably versatile instrument, Garcia & Fratti encouraged Harleighblu to unlock yet untapped layers of range and expression, to dazzling effect. “I was being more experimental than I ever knew I could be, and sometimes I couldn't believe how far, how out-there, I'd taken it.”
A hyperactive visionary producer and a classically-trained musical wunderkind, respectively, Garcia & Fratti are a powerful combination, and in Harleighblu they have met their match. “Having been singing as a solo artist since she was so young, being the one leading that process, for her to open herself up and be guided by someone else’s vision while still being so creative and inspired within it, was really impressive”, Garcia adds.
Instrumental in orchestrating this union between the young Nottingham-based singer and the US West Coast musical dons was Adrian Younge, having initially been approached by Harleighblu expressing her appreciation for his work and her desire to collaborate with him. Unable to commit due to the demands of his constantly evolving schedule, Younge instead recommended Starkiller, who were members of his extended musical family.
Playing in venerable producer Younge’s Venice Dawn outfit, Garcia & Fratti have contributed to records including the official soundtrack to the hit blaxploitation spoof Black Dynamite, and worked in the studio and onstage with many of their own musical heroes (such as Ghostface Killah, RZA, William Hart of the Delfonics, Souls Of Mischief, and Ali Shaheed Muhammad of ATCQ). In short, they have been immersed in one of the most inspirational environments a musician – and a film fanatic - could hope for, and this seeps through every note of their first Starkiller outing.