ADI (ft. Curtis Williams)
Higher is available via:
Future Beats; R&B; Hip-Hop
12th August 2016
The new single from ADI’s upcoming Higher E.P.
Pre-order link – bit.ly/ADI-HIGHER-iTunes
Composed by Adi Ulmansky
Written by Adi Ulmansky & Curtis Williams
Produced by Johnny Goldstein
Co-Produced by Adi Ulmansky
Programmed, mixed & keyboard by Johnny Goldstein
Mastered by Stuart Hawkes (Metropolis Mastering)
Artwork pic by Shir Rosenthal
Artwork design by Yonil
ONE of the best things about reviewing is coming back to music…
and an artist that keeps on surprising and defying the odds. I shall come to her soon, but at the moment, it is pertinent looking at honesty and addressing deep issues in music; mingling Future Beats, Hip-Hop and R&B together; Israeli musicians that are coming through right now. I find, even in 2016, there are too few artists that are really addressing hard subjects and bringing something relevant in to music. We, as a music community, are a bit tired with cliché subjects of love and romantic struggle. It is s staple that is required but that is not to say everything else should be ignored. I know it can be tough going against the grain and tackling some pretty weighty topics. Whether it is the state of the planet or political injustices: how many musicians are actually doing this? There are quite a few mainstream artists whose albums actually go into those areas but by and large it is a rarity. Thinking about ADI, and the way she opens up about her demons, is not only brave and impressive but an inspiration to other artists. Music is a platform that should be used to discuss problems, ills, and darker avenues. Pink Pillz, ADI’s previous track, looked at depression and struggle; casting against expectations and being very open with the listeners. That is to be applauded as it not only provides originality but will give courage to others to create a dialogue and discuss such things. I am not suggesting every musician should abandon their lyrics and start from scratch. It would be nice to see a few more rebelling against the love-songs-only club rules and actually subvert expectations. As the Mercury Prize run-down has shown – a topic I have brought up a couple of times – there are a lot of current artists being recognised for their social and political awareness. Anonhi’s Hopelessness looks at everything from drone attacks to the problems with climate control. Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool addressed immigration, scapegoating and corrupt politicians; Skepta and Kano look at street-level concerns and the issues our youth face. It is hardly coincidental that these artists have been given a Mercury nod. I feel we are growing tired, as a planet, of the same old tropes. I admire a love song like everyone but when every artist is doing that: how are you going to separate yourself from the pack? By de-stigmatising subjects like depression, psychological illnesses and politics then we are doing something genuinely worthy and different. ADI is a musician and composer whose lyrics have hardly ever skirted the shores of predictability and basic instincts.
PHOTO: Or Rosenber
She digs deep and is willing to share herself with the public. Higher, her latest single, was written with Curtis Williams (lyrics) and approaches love, deceit, and aspirations – so much is brought to the plate throughout the song. It would be naïve to say ADI is always going to write songs that look away from love but she is one of the most surprising and original artists I have come across. Before I continue on my point, it is worth introducing you to ADI:
“Tel-Aviv singer and producer, ADI (otherwise known as Adi Ulmansky) returns with new track, and first single taken from her new of the same name EP HIGHER, featuring Atlanta based rapper Curts Williams. The Higher EP is released in October, whilst the single is released 19 August.
Taking her music in a new direction and remaining true to her own unique production style, this is the first project that ADI has enlisted external producers whilst still co-producing the entire EP – a mix of rnb, future beats and hip-hop. Higher EP features production from Eric Dingus (Drake – If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late), and rappers including the aforementioned Curtis Williams of Two-9 (signed to Mike Will- Made-It’s label) and KDC. ADI herself self-produced the EP track Pink Pillz. The new release is her most honest yet. Following on from similar themes to recent single Pink Pillz, which addressed the use o anti-depressants, ADI explains that the HIGHER EP is very open on issues that she considers aren’t discussed enough. “My lyrics are kinda manic-depressive – they go from being super exposed and hurt (talking about depression, the struggle of self doubt and more) into talking about how i’m gonna conquer the world, all with a touch of sarcasm of course.”
Mixing feminine r&b vocals with hard and heavy, new skool hip-hop and trap beats, ADI’s describes her persona as a blend of two extremes; a fragile artist, exposing her fears and dreams, and a narcissist with an ego and a love of dirty beats and lyrics. Her current musical inspirations include Travis Scott, Tory Lanez, The Weeknd, PartyNextDoor, and also producers such as MR Carmack and Mura Masa.
Known for her electric live performances ADI has performed at Melt festival in Germany, Culture Collide Festival in LA and CMJ Music Marathon in NYC as well as spots supporting Kelis in Israel and Kate Tempest in Berlin. She has secured coveted slots at Canadian Music Week, at the legendary Glastonbury festival in the UK, and four Electronic Beats Festivals playing alongside acts like Gilles Peterson, Metronomy and Róisín Murphy.
ADI released her debut mixtape ‘Shit Just Got Real’ in 2013. A second EP Hurricane Girl closely followed in 2014, which included the well received single ‘Was It You?’ featuring Borgore. ADI has received widespread press support since her first release from titles including The Guardian, Independent, Noisey, Mixmag, Clash, The 405,The Fader, and Balcony TV, amongst others, and nods of approval from peers including Kitty Pryde, Darq E Freaker, My Panda Shall Fly and Asa”.
ADI has been sharing Higher across social media and the reception thus far has been very positive and congratulatory. You could never say ADI is a Pop star or easily label her. Alternatively judged a Hip-Hop and R&B musician: it is Future Beats that is the best label for what she does. A genre that is of her own creation: it pretty ably distills and defines everything she is about. If you hear an ADI composition and you get a compendium of colours, instrumentations, and emotions. Hard percussions and whooshing electronics; distorted vocals and myriad layers – all goes into the Future Beats sound. Artists that fuse and mould their own genres/sub-genres are those that do not want to be easily defined and labelled. Of course, there are R&B-cum-Hip-Hop blends in ADI’s music. Higher entertains Rap and Hip-Hop but, by and large, the Israeli musician create something new, personal and highly exciting. I shall come to ADI’s music soon: there are a lot of great Israeli bands/acts that we should be aware of. When looking at international musicians: few of us will cast our attentions away from countries like the U.S. Quite a few Asian nations are producing some terrific music but Israel is in its own league. Vaadat Charigim is a bit of a mouthful but they have already played SXSW and completed a tour of the U.S. The Shoegaze trio sing their tracks in Hebrew but that has not alienated audiences. Comparisons have been made to Slowdive and Ride so it is only a matter of time before Vaadat Charigim is a focus across Europe. A steady and loyal U.S. fan-base has provided greater exposure and recognition of Israeli music. Garden City Movement is another Tel Aviv trio and one that sings in English. They blend despair and dreaminess superbly; tangle British Trip-Hop and Electronica into a spellbinding cauldron. Another Tel Aviv band Skyroads are self-described Future Disco artists and have already gained attention in the U.K. Playing SXSW and Liverpool Sound City Festival: an exhilarating and uplifting quintet that is a big tip for the future. Lola Marsh and their Indie-Folk blends have gained comparisons to Lana Del Rey (because of Yael Shoshana Cohen’s sultry voice) but the incredible musicianship and incredible chemistry have found them celebrated in Europe and a band that have international standing.
Tel Aviv is leading the Israeli music wave and is somewhere we should be paying close attention to. Other Israeli artists worth following are Electric Zoo and The Angelcy. The former is an intriguing trio that pairs Psychedelic with Rock; bits of Funk, Blues and Jazz come into the mix – the results are immense. The band employs‘70s instruments to get a great retro. sound and can be heard across the most ‘in’ bars across Israel. Not only recognised across Europe: it seems they have the potential to cross to the U.S. and gain a foothold there. The Angelcy is six musicians are hard to define but all the better for it. Writing songs about love and the Israeli military (a band that understands my earlier point) they have been captivating and entrancing audiences since their formation in 2011. Asaf Avidan is the final Israeli act I would recommend you check out. He has been on the scene since the early-‘00s and provides spectral sounds that unify American Folk and Blues; a little bit of Funk all stirred together. The above is not a random list that highlights what is happening in Israeli music: it shows what variation and talent is found away from the U.K. and U.S. Not everyone overlooks the wider world (in terms of music) but we often become too rigid and defined. Knowing ADI, and seeing her posts extolling the virtues of Tel Aviv, it is a city that is blossoming and resonating with Europe and the U.S. ADI surely stands as one of the finest and premier artists in Tel Aviv. If you need a break away from media-favourite musician and British/American artists then look into Israel (and Tel Aviv) and discover music of the highest order.
PHOTO: Omer Bitas Photography
If we want to get a sense of how ADI’s current work ranks and stacks up: it is worth looking back a bit and assessing her last few songs; an insight into her past and where she has come from. Higher is an exhilarating and wondrous cut that not only evokes her older, collaborative work but showcases new themes, sounds, and motivation. Being a fan of all of her work; I was keen to cast my gaze back and witness the development and growth of ADI. Pink Pillz is the previous single and one of the most memorable from the Israeli artist. Not only a brave and soul-baring song: it is the most confident, determined and meaningful track she has produced in years. Her previous songs and mixtapes have been packed with exceptional songs and innovations. Pink Pillz addresses depression, medication and psychological concerns with maturity and meaning. In the song, ADI has her eyes shut and is determined to make changes. Elongating her words and putting so much emotion into the song: a matter-of-fact, sensual-sounding vocal is leant to Pink Pillz. The beats tee the vocal up and score a fascinating glimpse into our heroine’s mindset. Seemingly defeated and fatigued by life; ADI feels compelled to run against pressures and suffocation. Hurt, lost and confused: there is an element of denial but a desire to escape her miasma and distress. The pink pills are swallowed to stabilise ADI but you are unsure whether they are beneficial or simply numbing her. A repetitious delivery of the song’s title creates a hypnotic and strange mood. You are drawn in and hooked by ADI’s electronic parable warps and racing, swelling composition. The beats race while an eeriness creeps in – unnerving at times but always arresting and enticing. Mixing a certain sweetness with space-age oddness: a head-trip that gets into the brain and elicits deep thought, emotion, and reactions. ADI keeps the lyrics accessible and direct; the composition complex and detailed – the effect is very special indeed.
PHOTO: Anna Drizo
HEAVEN is another song that showcases what talents and sides ADI has. A juddering and distorted opening: it is all hazy and hungover; awakening to the world and a curious opening. Blurry and flickering: the unsure mood opens to something yowling, animal-like and cute. There is something exotic and strange about the song but never off-putting. You envision animals and figures; beguiling women and myriad emotions. Whether entranced in the metaphysical powers of love or in the primal throes of passion; the inexplicable instance of good mood and perfection – another racing and busy song that hangs together exceptionally. Carried by the multicoloured waves and sun-kissed undergrowth; sweet-leaf sensuality (little Reggae touches manage to infuse) whilst ADI’s Future Beats-cum-Hip-Hop centre engulfs and stuns the senses. CHINATOWN, like HEAVEN, houses glitchy electronics and a mix of hollow, far-off sounds tied to instant beats. Hand-clap percussions and metallic sounds; more effusive, playful sparring with clattering snaps. CHINATOWN gives impressions of cartoon figures tripping through a strange world; the heart of the city beating – opening into a neon rush and delirious head-spin. A collage of sounds unfolds as the song unearths emotions and reaction. You imagine yourself in Chinatown (London) during the day. Bustling, busy and replete with exotic, familiar smells: the conversation and chatter of the streets comes to mind. CHINATOWN is physical and emotive track that draws you in and compels you to move, imagine and wander. A wanderlust quality to the composition keeps things restless, imaginative and nervy. Electronics drive and stutter, whilst the beats are bold and arresting.
What we can tell, even from three songs, is how much variation and colour ADI can put into her songs. Tracks like Pink Pillz have looked at darker psychological issues and put depression into the forefront: making a ‘taboo’ subject more visible, proud and tangible. Something so hard and fraught, in lesser hands, might be too ambitious or scare people off. ADI not only makes Pink Pillz a swirling, gripping event but injects so much warmth, personality, and passion into the song. Composition-only CHINATOWN and HEAVEN are shorter numbers but no less wondrous. The former brings you into the city (whether London, L.A. or New York) and a beguiling community and neighbourhood. Being familiar with London’s Chinatown (by day and night) you get a split of both in the song. ADI manages to present the smells, traffic and community of the day against the lights, beauty, and uncertainty of the night. Showing expertise, authority and huge imagination throughout – it is a superb and mind-melting song. HEAVEN is not quite as edgy and city-set; more emotive, love-filled and uplifting. Few artists would be able to retain a core sound but offer two very different and poles-apart songs. HEAVEN (like CHINATOWN) gets every listener conspiring and picturing: everyone will have their own view and cast their own mini-film. The beats and electronics are so powerful they hit the brain and get straight into the heart. ADI is a multi-talented producer, writer, D.J., and performer who makes every song completely intoxicating. Higher reminds me of her earlier days where she would collaborate with artists. It has the sound of a mix-tape cut in its experimentation and multiple moves but retains a singularity and distinct vision. ADI has not only kept her creative high and imagination but here, on Higher, she has proved new nuance, subject matter and potential. The Higher E.P. will cast many curious seeds and get her fans intrigued and arrested. If the title track is anything to go by – breath will be held and the hearts primed for something wonderful. Riding the waves and facing her demons: ADI has turned it into creative gold and is one of the most reliable, peerless and heart-stopping talents in the world right now.
Our heroine kicks things off with a raw and processed utterance of “I just wanna go higher”. It is put through the machine so has that slightly distorted, unembellished flavor to it. Instantly, we are into the song and brought into her world. ADI has that innate ability, whatever song or subject she is tackling, but ensures she gets listeners hooked straight off. That refrain keeps coming back and is accompanied by lurking and bold electronics beats. Almost like a bad dream or voice swirling around her head: there is that determination to achieve something greater; escape from the life and box she is in and break through. Many will be able to relate to the song’s early message of emancipation, determination and capturing the moment. Whether influenced by a stressful time in her life or a creative frustration: that weary and angered fatigue comes out; you can picture ADI writing the worlds and underlining those syllables – emoticons and upside down smiles next to the lines. Keeping the composition relatively controlled and dignified to start: it is the vocal that is given priority and spotlight to campaign. Again, like CHINATOWN and HEAVEN, the composition manages to give so much detail and scenery with very few notes. Higher is more in the mould of Pink Pillz one notices. Other songs in ADI’s cannon have documented love and high plateau; a sense of nirvana and ease: others have been more reflective and inward; looking at the self and the harsh realities of life. Pink Pillz was a brave and noble song that turned the lens on depression and anxiety: how it should not be a stigma and how serious and human it is; how we all have to face such things. Higher is not quite as heavy in terms of subjects but you feel like it is a natural sequel to Pink Pillz. ADI, having taken the pills and needing to feel better, has discovered a moment of clarity and epiphany.
A two-part suite and unfolding story: ADI is channeling and challenging her strains through music and letting the listeners into her mindset. I know, from seeing interviews and posts by ADI, how she is affected by depressions and stress – something so many musicians go through. In the same manner, there is constant demand, pressures, and doubts. Is she in the right place and doing the right thing? Is this as good as things can be? Higher finds ADI wanting to take the next plane out and embrace something unstructured, rebellious and fun. It is fascinating theorising just what got the creative spark ignited. I know, from social media posts, ADI has had some tough days and been thinking about her future. Maybe not as happy, fulfilled and challenged as she should be: all of this comes through in those early exchanges. By squeezing her voice through the machine: Higher has a more frightening, salutary and disconnected sound to it. If the vocal were clean and untreated then it would not convey the same manner of fear, necessity, and power. ADI lets it be known how people want to get a piece of your mind and body: whether referring to record big-wigs or the public; certain people or those who do not care for her. It is hard to evade the building weight and gravity. Before long, the composition explodes and sprints away into the darkness. Electronics fizz, vibrate, and snake whilst the beats vibrate, multiply and bounce to create something inexplicable. As you try and collect your thoughts and wrap your head around the sounds: ADI’s repeated confession (wanting to go higher) still proves intriguing and troubling. On the one hand, you know she wants to escape and go somewhere else; be in a different state and be happy. On the other, there is that sound of a girl trapped in the machine: a record that is stuck; almost defining a human who is in a hole and shouting up to the people; looking for salvation and support.
Curtis Williams introduces himself with an elongated, cool-as-ice sigh that is a wonderful counterbalance from ADI’s anxious, feline vocal delivery. Chocolate-smooth and instilled with certain stylishness: everything shifts in a new direction and brings another chapter into view. Teeing up the beat and jostling around the microphone: the hero is ready to speak; almost acting like a representative for ADI or another side of her consciousness. Perhaps a more confident, freer version of her inner thoughts: it is said the “revolution will be televised”. At that moment, images of warfare, upheaval, and protest come into the imagination (for me anyway) and it changes your perception and theory of Higher. ADI starts off with a Future Beats sound and gives it one level: Williams’ Hip-Hop swagger brings in a new level and takes your heart somewhere else. Smacks to the face and violence reigns: “Plotting while I’m trying to roll my weed” and the sense of a young man being hustled, hassled and kept down. Whereas ADI wanted to flee and achieve betterment: there is a similar degree of suffocation and strain in Williams’ mind; another tale of suppression and struggle. Sick, slick and bursting with attitude: our man is in no mood to slow down and be dictated to. Those who force their views and try to temporise things are being provided swift rebuke – our boy is putting “the gas on them” and doing the exact opposite of what they want. At this stage, you get the sense (Williams’ vocal) is a rejoinder to ADI’s opener. Our hero is furious at a general callousness and lack of support. When he had nothing, she (whoever is being documented) was nowhere to be seen and keen to be aloof. Now things are better; she wants a piece of him and things to go back to normal. One imagines two sides of relationship: one person who wants to be independent and see the world; pursue a dream and break out of the shackles of the life she is in. The other party is facing a realisation that things are not as he imagined; love has gone cold and the girl he fell for is not who he thought she was. Williams is drinking slow and trying to eradicate the bad taste. As a reminder and taunt: ADI’s single-minded chorus swings in and, once again, changes the impression and tone of the song. Every stage of Higher recasts interpretation and get the mind put somewhere else. By the closing stages, my thoughts changed once again. Perhaps this is Williams’ story and struggle and ADI’s vocal is his inner-voice and brain shouting out – maybe I am way off the mark. The beauty of the song is how complex and interesting it is. It is not your average love song or mindless number: so deep and nuanced is it that it takes a long time to come to conclusions and actually take it all in.
PHOTO: Shit Rosenthal
ADI comes back in and provides another retort and side of the story. Her voice, unlike Williams, remains echoed and fragmented. It is like she has slipped away and is coming from another plain or dimension. Ghostly, disturbed but endlessly emotive: she is being made to feel down and meagre; put under the foot by her man and turned into someone he wants her to be. Maybe dominated and fed up of being led around: ADI’s machine-dominated vocal is like a captor phoning the victim’s family and making threats; it has that edginess that is hard to shake off. The last utterances see ADI ensuring the title and chorus stays in the mind and is not easily ignored. When the dust has settled and the song is over; it is not easy to move on quickly and shrug it away. Such is the force, beauty and force of the song, it not only motivates you to look again and dive back in – you will reflect on your own life and take something away from the song. Higher perfectly balances accusation, recrimination, and struggle with a sense of relief, hopefulness and possibility. ADI always surprises with her music and has created one of her (if not the) best track so far. Curtis Williams adds Hip-Hop aggression and swagger but never sounds out-of-place or shoed-in. He adds attack and smoothness; contrasts and nuance. The two together make Higher a stunning song that is likely to find an audience across radio, clubs and internationally. The Higher E.P. is liable to be similarly immense and assured. If ADI has struggled to find herself or make sense of things: Higher is a revelation and deceleration that lets it be known she is a force to be reckoned with.
PHOTO: Noa Flecker Photography
ADI and Curtis Williams seem like a dream partnership so let’s hope they work together in the future. ADI’s Higher E.P. will be exciting to see and likely to gather huge praise. Its title track is a typically compelling and confident song from one of music’s most fascinating characters. ADI is very much a musician for the modern age. Against the barrage of media-picked, plain-clothed bands that all say the same things and are cut-and-paste replicas: ADI is a splash of colour and someone we should all spend some time investigating. Her style alone is enough to get the lips smiling and the mind racing. She has faced problems (and has anxieties) but is open to her followers on social media and a very honest artist. Not just allowing these problems to drag her down: they go into her music; that creative outlet allows her freedom and the chance to connect with people. I have talked about how important music is when addressing big issues and less-common subjects. Too many weary, formulaic love songs are floating around not enough musicians are doing anything new with lyrics. The minority who go beyond the obvious are to be respected and proffered. ADI, through tracks like Pink Pillz, brings something much-needed to music: songs that deal with raw emotions and subjects that have (to an extent) been overlooked and stigamtised. Higher is another bold move that moves her in another direction and shows how accomplished and consistent she is. Curtis Williams’ contributions and performance are astonishing but ADI’s composition and input give the song some very special and enchanting qualities. The Future Beats star keeps going from strength to strength and 2016 has been a very productive one for her. Touring, writing, and recording have filled her calendar and there is still more to come. I have looked at some Israeli artists worth seeking out and especially those coming from Tel Aviv. We often look at L.A., London, and larger cities and assume they are the only places worth focusing on. You can never predict music or assume there is nobody decent outside of those places. London, for instance, is a huge creative centre and one of the hottest musical locations on Earth. Tel Aviv is coming through the ranks and producing so many exceptional acts right now. The city boasts gorgeous views and wonderful scenery. A mix of urban development and historical traditions: somewhere we should all visit and spend some time in. Tel Aviv has a thriving gay scene – labelled one of the best gay cities in the world – and an extraordinary hub for music.
PHOTO: Noam Maoz
I digress, but my points are relevant: expand the horizon and discover a wonderful city that is among the most productive and varied in terms of its music. It is wonderful seeing ADI come in hard and strong with Higher. Her work has always been of the highest order and different to what is out there. A friendly, charming and accessible musician that connects with her fans and wins you over with ease. The Higher E.P. is likely to expand upon its title track and prove what a force she in modern music. I know she will be busy with her music and promotion but let’s hope she has time to come to London. I would love to see her perform: the city is always willing to embrace artists like her. So many venues and spaces would see their floors packed with hungry punters. Across the U.K. and Europe, there is a definite market and lots of fans waiting. In Asia, she has her fans; there are ardent supporters right across the world. Whether she has time to see them all and tour extensively, I am not too sure. Higher has already garnered effusive feedback and reviews and is a stunning achievement from the Tel Aviv resident. The future is very much hers and it will be thrilling to see just how far she can go. Over the years, she has managed to grow and evolve as an artist: keep her music fresh and constantly surprising. Higher is yet another memorable footstep and evocative song from ADI. We have some similar artists in the U.K. (FiFi Rong is someone with a similar compositional reach) but to be honest, there is nobody quite like her. Music needs more individuals and characters: those that stand in the mind and distinguish themselves from everybody else. Absorb Higher and its myriad threads and prepare for the forthcoming E.P. ADI is a woman on a mission: an artist that…
WILL be a household name in years to come.