As summer creeps into autumn and the leaves turn brown, we have another transformation to enjoy. The artist formerly known as Spooky Black has returned under his new guise of Corbin. The singer songwriter became an internet sensation thanks to his spacey RnB cuts. But after the release of his 2014 album Leaving, things went a little quiet for Mr Black.
After changing his name to Corbin and releasing the promising Couch Potato EP with Bobby Raps, he vanished from the scene, leaving his swelling fan base baying for more. Well he’s finally back with the full length offering Mourn. But unfortunately for Corbin, this collection of goth charged synth tracks flatters to deceive.
Back in his Spooky days, Black gained plaudits for his RnB tracks made in collaboration with Doc McKinney, whose list of collaborators includes the Weeknd. Tracks like Without You and Reason generated millions of views. Lazy, unpretentious and effortlessly trendy, Black’s tracks were carving out a new niche in the genre.
And elements of those tracks remain here. Corbin’s inventive songwriting shines on the title track while No Soul features the dreamy instrumentation that we’ve come to expect from him. The biggest shift however comes in Corbin’s vocals. What once was a buttery and melodious singing style has been replaced by an aggressive crooning. He’s screechier here and veers around his tracks like a wasp in a bell jar. Though intriguing at first, it’s hard to stomach for a full 40 minutes.
What hasn’t waned is Corbin’s commitment to production. Lush and well layered, Mourn highlights the abilities of its producers, Wedidit’s Shlohmo and D33J. Rife with haunting synths and processed drums, there’s enough here for fans to enjoy, even if the record feels, ironically, more spooky than previous releases.
This album is best when it harnesses Corbin’s RnB past. All Out is laid back and restrained while The Fold Up builds from a catchy electronic riff. However, too many of these tracks wander into nothingness. It’s a style that punctuated Corbin’s early work but here it feels uninspired and meaningless.
What is refreshing though is Corbin’s attempt to weave a concept album with Mourn. According to the record’s press release, it loosely tracks a recluse who’s escaping the ‘current state of affairs’ in the US to hunker down with his lover in a woodland cabin. And Corbin’s lyrics are certainly politically charged at points. ‘Grab my rifle, time to make a mess’ he screams on Revenge Song. Whether it’s Trump, hurricanes or impending nuclear annihilation that’s ticking him off, Corbin’s not a happy chap.
All in all, Mourn is an ambitious LP that marks a confident rebranding of an artist that could have easily churned out the same album that got him famous. No performer wants to stagnate but maybe it’s time to get out of the woods and back to the drawing board.