This piece originally
appeared in print in So It Goes Issue.3, Spring 2014.
2012’s Black Atlass EP, with its keening, soulful voice and precise, moody beat-making suggested a fully-formed artist. There was no hint at Alex Fleming aka Black Atlass’ tender years and the constant process of refinement that underpins his music. Self-reflection is his method: “The best work is done in that way, because you really have the chance to criticise yourself before anyone else has the chance to criticise.” It galvanises a steely belief in the quality of his work. “You know that once any part of what you’re doing is completed that it will be the ultimate of what you can achieve because you’ve eliminated all the variables for yourself.”
Standouts like ‘Black Dog’ and ‘Castles’ possess a maturity of tone and content that belies his nineteen years and it’s this precociousness and professionalism that sets Fleming apart. His clarity of thought and expression is startling – “I want to be able to reach the largest audiences, and I think that’s why the genre of pop is such a great platform for musicians and creatives. It’s the highest level of success you can reach within this industry, because the most people will hear it and see your vision; it gives a lot more people the chance to reflect upon your work.”
February’s Young Bloods EP, though still recognisably Black Atlass, moved on to a more immediately accessible, radio-friendly style with the irrepressible ‘Blossom’. Influenced by “suburban love” at high school, further work is underway on the first full-length LP and Alex emphasises that this will mark a watershed in his life, the distillation of what has gone before with the first releases. After a suitably modern ascent – darling of the blogosphere and the fashion front row – there is a sense that a pause for breath might be needed to execute the album and to make sure it remains an artefact forever: “like a sonic photo book that I can look back on and that will take me back to a time in my life where I can hear myself talk about what are now memories”.
However, the Ontario-native has his eyes trained on more than just pop pre-eminence; he talks of progression into acting, design and fashion. Any wearer of sepia-tinted specs would find it warming to see him hold to creative ideals of pop’s less manicured past and hear him lament the quality of current radio staples. For this very last fact alone we welcome Alex to the fold; perhaps now there will be some pop worth tuning in for this year.
Words by Lewis Carpenter
Images by Adeline Mai
All clothing by Dior Homme