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Live Review: Introducing Kelsey Bulkin's brand of surf-R&B with 'Samsara'

13 December 2018 | 12:43 pm | Kyle Fensom

Meditative, overwhelming and soothing all at once, LA singer Kelsey Bulkin's 'Samsara' sits somewhere between R&B and Chillwave - somehow it works.

Formerly one-half of MADE IN HEIGHTS, KELSEY BULKIN has built her solo name on a string of impressive singles and equally impressive vocal features, including a scene-stealing turn on the latest ODESZA album. Her latest single, ‘Samsara’, arrives as the first solo material we’ve heard from the rising LA-based artist in just over a year - and points towards big things to come in the year ahead.

Pairing Bulkin’s silky vocals with swirling synths, ‘Samsara’ sits somewhere between R&B and chillwave - a combination that Bulkin has appropriately titled ‘surf-R&B’. It sounds like an odd mish-mash of styles, but Bulkin pulls it off somehow, with her modulating vocals, thick kick drums and a breakdown during the bridge that points towards the R&B side of the equation and hazy, lo-fi wall-of-sound synths that feel as if they could’ve been lifted from a track like Washed Out’s ‘Feel It All Around’. Not to mention that the whole song just radiates the charming, this-was-recorded-in-my-bedroom energy of that scene.

The production, which was partially handled by David Ansaris of VALLIS ALPS completely envelops you, rushing into the chorus in a way that’s relaxing, meditative and overwhelming all at once. It’s a mix which reflects Bulkin’s inspiration behind the track, touching on the cyclical nature of life and the acceptance of change: “Looking back at my own heartbreaks and framing them as attachments to the inevitability of change instead of as true loss has been eye opening and also a riddle I’m trying to solve. How can we ever be completely detached and still survive here?”

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Photo by Canh Nguyen