Erika de Casier – “Essentials”

Erika de Casier‘s debut album Essentials is out on Independent Jeep Music.

Shedding off the excess is just as important in music as it is in life. With her debut solo album Essentials, Erika De Casier has put forth a collection of songs that are both endearingly pure and effortlessly effective, imbuing a chronologically complex brand of R&B with a dose of zen that would have even the Dalai Lama tapping his foot.

Hailing from Copenhagen by way of a handful of other cities across the globe, Erika first cut her teeth on Denmark’s house scene, having collaborated extensively with the collective Regelbau and served as one half of Saint Cava. As a solo artist, she’s focussing on the styles she grew up loving – those first musical memories that echo in your head for a lifetime. By the time you’re a quarter of the way through Essentials’ first track, “The Flow”, it should be exceedingly clear that Erika de Casier’s childhood consisted of more than its fair share of 90’s R&B, with hints of TLC, Sade, and Aaliyah all shining through.

And yet, there’s nothing cloyingly retro about the album whatsoever. The influence is crystal clear, but the innovation is even clearer. Modern pop songwriting mingles with G-Funk throwback vibes before going for a relaxing spa day on Essentials, with the result being a fresh collection of comfortable love songs and misty, heartache-tinged ballads alike, all marked by pristine vocals and Darkchild-reminiscent instrumentation as light and refreshing as air itself. Add in the rich layering appearing on nearly every track, and Essentials is an atmosphere in and of itself, minimalistically intimate in a way that so much of today’s overproduced contemporary R&B fails to achieve.

There’s a healthy balance between slow-jams and upbeat bops throughout the album, and a wide range of emotional temperatures to match. Songs like “Rainy” and “Intimate” capture some of the more fragile, spiny aspects of relationships with lyrics like “Only time I hear the sound of your voice: ‘Please leave a message after the tone’”, while setting the mood with synth pads and chimes that evoke some New Age vibes, minus the dream catchers and crystals. On the flip side, “Do My Thing” and “Story of My Life” show just how much nostalgia Erika’s able to infuse her music with, as harpsichord and acoustic guitar lines straight from the ‘90s underscore empowering verses that are unmistakably modern, and which demand a spontaneous bedroom dance session.

All in all, Essentials is a stunning debut brimming with personality, depth, and texture, managing to simultaneously channel the past while charting a course for the future with as much assertiveness as watershed R&B records like The Weeknd’s debut trilogy or Aaliyah’s self-titled masterpiece. In an interview with i-D, Erika de Casier said, “I want to make music that people connect with, and I want to be able to do it full-time without a side job. I’d also like to live in a house so I can have a cat”. If this first album is any sign of what’s to come, it’s time to start shopping for a scratching post.

Jonathan Vilardi