… Asylum is nothing short of captivating. Its brevity, combined with its impressive variety and entertainment value, makes it an EP worth repeatedly revisiting…
By Yinoluwa Olowofoyeku
Hailing from the vibrant and dynamic backdrop of Rivers State, Nigeria, two extraordinary talents, each bearing their own unique musical essence, converge in the creation of Asylum, a collaborative EP that radiates brilliance. This remarkable project brings together the lyrical prowess of Kelvin Ibinabo Oriye, known as Kaestyle, and the Grammy Award-winning production wizardry of Eric Isaac Utere, professionally recognised as LeriQ. Kaestyle comes to this project riding the high of his 2022 EP, Kae’s Study, where he showcased his versatility and songwriting prowess. LeriQ – who is also a credited artiste with 2019 singles, “Anita” and “No Wahala,” and his Dutty Love EP – is known for pushing sonic boundaries and infusing his Afro-influenced production with electronic elements to create a signature unique sound. Asylum combines the best of both of these minds into a profoundly distinct listening experience.
The curtain rises with “The Bag,” an opening act that sets the stage for what is to come. Kaestyle takes centre stage, serenading us with his unwavering commitment to securing “the bag.” His lyrics paint a vivid picture of dedication, resounding with the unwavering chant, “Can’t nobody get in my way oo, I want it now.” The sonic tapestry, skilfully woven by LeriQ, envelopes us with twanging guitar arpeggios, underpinned by resonant bass notes, and the gentle pulse of Afrobeat drums. An added layer of depth emerges with the inclusion of harmonious group backing vocals, drawing us further into Kaestyle’s lyrical narrative.
The mood takes an intriguing turn with “21,” a sultry and sensuous masterpiece. Produced by David Hart, the instrumental is subtly drenched in R&B influences and lays the groundwork that is adorned with velvety keys, a gritty bass synth, and snappy snares. Kaestyle delves into the risqué imagery with tantalising lyrics, delivering them with a sultry finesse. The lyrics are straightforward, but their seductive message is crystal clear, heightened by clever interpolations of Drake’s “Rich Flex” and Rihanna’s verse on DJ Khalid’s “Wild Thoughts.”
A shift in tempo propels us into the realm of “YOLO,” a pulsating ode to living life to the fullest. Up-tempo kicks drive the rhythm, dancing in tandem with silky smooth keys and synth embellishments. Kaestyle’s lyrics invite us into a hedonistic world where every moment is seized, underscored by lines like “Chop all my savings, only God can save me.” The irresistible chorus is enhanced by Leriq’s stellar synth work, forcing the melodies into our memory banks. The song’s sonic landscape undergoes slight metamorphosis, evolving with the introduction of Dance claps and rattling snares, ensuring its freshness until the very end.
Returning with a mellower ambience, “eMotion” delivers a bright, Hip-Hop-influenced offering. Bright snares, wavering synth stabs, and expansive drum arrangements form the instrumental canvas. Kaestyle exhibits his versatility, embracing a new vocal delivery that seamlessly merges elements of Hip-Hop and R&B. His semi-rapped, semi-sung performance breathes life into the track, rendering adult-themed lyrics that spell out the intricacies of various sexual encounters. His sweeping high notes and rapid staccato flows provide interesting variations that keep the listener locked in all the way.
The final note of the EP arrives with “Ugly Truth,” another venture into the realm of desire, but this time with a twist. Kaestyle’s pursuit is unashamedly straightforward, declaring affection for someone he describes as “not pretty but your hips no dey lie.” LeriQ’s production captivates with a deep, filtered bass sample and accompanying vocal chops, driven by Dancehall-inspired percussion. Kaestyle explores a straightforward delivery backed by various gruff group vocals, which add an extra layer of depth, culminating in a memorable finale.
Asylum stands as a testament to the exceptional synergy between Kaestyle and LeriQ. Kaestyle, the storyteller, crafts vivid lyrical landscapes, conveying scenarios, emotions, and thoughts with clarity and cleverness. His vocal prowess has evolved since his last project, displaying remarkable dexterity in melodies and range. He deftly navigates diverse delivery styles, flaunting his versatility across the EP.
LeriQ’s production mirrors this versatility, consistently finding inventive ways to keep the music engaging. While sensuality might be the core theme, both artistes breathe fresh life into each track, playing with various sonic elements. LeriQ masterfully infuses electronic effects, synths, and intricate drum arrangements into each instrumental, allowing Kaestyle’s vocals to shine without overshadowing or being outshone by them. Throughout the project, they strike a sweet spot of balance, with both their parts working hand-in-hand to the benefit of the successful whole.
Creative production, expressive singing, and captivating songwriting are tied together by expert audio engineering, helmed by LeriQ himself. Every layer is meticulously arranged, allowing each element to shine clearly in the mix. Vocal effects are applied sparingly but effectively, enhancing certain moments for maximum impact. Harmonies and backing vocals blend seamlessly into the soundscape, adding a touch of ingenuity to the overall auditory experience.
In summation, Asylum is nothing short of captivating. Its brevity, combined with its impressive variety and entertainment value, makes it an EP worth repeatedly revisiting. Kaestyle and LeriQ splendidly represent their unique artistic voices while harmonising seamlessly on this project. Together, they’ve crafted a sonic gem that tantalises the ears and leaves us yearning for more. Whether it’s a continued partnership or individual endeavours, Kaestyle and LeriQ have convincingly proven that we should be on the lookout for whatever it is they would release next.
Lyricism – 1.7
Tracklisting – 1.5
Sound Engineering – 1.8
Vocalisation – 1.6
Listening Experience – 1.6
Rating – 8.2/10
Yinoluwa “Yinoluu” Olowofoyeku is a multi-disciplinary artist and creative who finds expression in various media. His music can be found across all platforms and he welcomes interaction on his social media @Yinoluu.