New Artist serpentwithfeet Mixes Gospel and R&B to Create Fearless Vulnerability
Juanita Graham | Dec. 1, 2017, 3:29 a.m.
Last year, serpentwithfeet released its debut EP, "blisters" – an appropriate title for the sweltering collection. With the production of Haxan Cloak, the stunning vocals of Josiah Wise, and the collaborative efforts of Bjork, "blisters" arises as a meld of neo-soul and gospel, occupying a unique space that feels both futuristic and primordial. Amid mythological lyricism and classical instrumentation, the EP also offers an raw portrait of queer experience.
Its first and titular track introduces listeners to the end of a relationship: “As your lips curl at the smell of sweetness in this room, keep tying your shoes. You should know the world outside my door has tightened its womb for you. Help me say the darkness of the leaves has come. Forgive has not, forgive not.” Wise peels back the layers of heartbreak, exposing a graceful, yet crushing emotional reckoning. He traces the fissures in intimacy that bring about this unraveling: “You would not get small with me, you would not kneel for me, you would not kiss me.”
Accompanied by a distinct sonic landscape, simultaneously expansive and suffocating, Wise’s vocal prowess takes center stage. But the following track, "flickering," aptly begins in a much softer place: “I’m starting to feel the cord connecting us two is made of gossamer. I'm starting to kiss these bruises; it hurts that you won't join me.”
serpentwithfeet is refreshing not only in its honesty, but in its bravery. Wise is unafraid of vulnerability, a characteristic that remains prominent throughout the EP. The following ballad, "four ethers," is the first explicitly queer song of the collection: “Babe I know you learned some fucked up shit from your mother. Had you tucking your dick, had you hiding the shit that really made you special. Show me yourself.” Wise touches on the nuances of queer love and the many forces it may face: internalized homophobia and mental illness being two of many that the collaboration encounters on four ethers.
The final two tracks – "penance" and "redemption" – bring the listener through the painful realities that dissolved this relationship, into a space of acceptance: “I thought there was redemption in the four ethers ... But your name is impossible to know.”
As a whole, "blisters" may leave its listeners reeling or revitalized, or maybe both. There’s no doubt, though, that it is an imaginative and intimate creation, well worth exploring.