Philadelphia artist Shakai Mondai has just released “Bad”, the first single off of her upcoming EP due out on Odd Castles on July 28. “Bad” is actually the first look at what she’s capable of as an artist, given that according to her Facebook page, after having taken a long break from writing songs, she finished her “first song completely” just over three months ago. In the same post, she says something that in her case is probably more important, and that is how she was reminded that “music is like dreams.” “Bad” takes that notion to the bank.
There are no over the top gestures on this song, nothing meant to shock you out of a moment. Trying to find a moment such as that wouldn’t be unlike looking at a single blade of grass while your friends are taking in the majesty of the landscape in its entirety. Mixed and mastered by fellow Soundcloud producers Sally Decker (Multa Nox) and Regina Campuzano (Maladama), every stand out instrumental or vocal line is instantly subdued, trading in a single exciting moment for a series of understated ones that move the song towards a very earned climax. From the murmuring synth to the dark bassline “Bad” moves you along in a way that’s quiet and seamless. It truly is a lot like dreaming: having no idea why you’re in a place or when you got there, and by the time you’ve left you can’t remember leaving.
About 30 seconds in, there’s a whirling delayed synth line in the right channel. Every time it comes back the song reaffirms its mystical quality. Imagine yourself sitting in the dark watching lightning bugs fly around a tree as you listen to the purposeful chatter of birds. Now imagine the image and the sound becoming indistinguishable from one another, imagine lightning bugs actually singing like birds. The moments in which “Bad” is embodied by the heights of its’ mysticism are like that; surreal. Her voice as she sings “I don’t want to be bad anymore / dreaming that I don’t sleep like I did before” treated by a crooning reverbed guitar line feels like FKA Twigs doing her best rendition of “Wicked Game” by Chris Isaak. “Bad” is an emotional song, a brief insight into how it might feel to give and give and give, unselfishly because you can’t help but be overwhelmed by the beauty of something, and that’s a rare emotion.