Summer Breeze is a timely breath of fresh air in a crowded release window. The sonic sweetness and thematic poignance of the project make it an interesting companion for the quieter days…
By Yinoluwa Olowofoyeku
26-year-old Austin Iornongu Iwar was born in Lagos and grew up between Lagos and Abuja. Influenced by his older brother, Suté Iwar, by the age of 14, he had begun creating music on the FL Studio digital audio workstation software. In 2014, he began his career as “Tay,” releasing his Passport mix tape through BANTU Collective, an Abuja-based entertainment company headed by his older brother, Terna Iwar. The recognition of his talent was immediate as he was nominated at the 4th Nigerian Teens Choice Awards for Song of the Year in 2015.
Numerous releases and steady growth followed thereafter. He released Renascentia EP in 2016 (which saw a song soundtrack an episode of popular web series, “Skinny Girl in Transit”). He opened for Asa Live in Lagos in 2017. He signed with Universal Music Group Nigeria in 2018, and released “Video Star” with them. He also signed with Soulection and released 2019’s GEMINI album through them. 2020 saw him feature on Wizkid’s Made in Lagos album, launching him into the international limelight.
Since then, Tay Iwar has amassed writing credits, live performances, more deals, and has also given us 2021’s meditative EP, Love & Isolation. Summer Breeze arrives as another such EP, full of introspective thoughts, futuristic R&B sounds, and angelic vocals.
Previously released single, “Undercover Lover,” kicks the EP off, beginning with a sample from his debut single, “Coda,” wrapped in smooth filtered keys and backed by light Afrobeat drums. Instantly Tay Iwar’s soft, angelic vocals beckon the listener into a relaxed state as he and Twelve XII profess admiration for their undercover lover, telling her she is “beautiful like the sunrise, beautiful like your own eyes.” The production evolves with subtle guitars and percussions as the vocal delivery evolves on the second verse, flowing from gentle R&B stylings to a quicker Afrobeats cadence, complete with an interpolation snuck in from 2Face Idibia’s “Only Me.”
The relaxed vibes continue on the Juls-produced titular track, “Summer Breeze.” Ghanaian-British producer, Juls, supplies his signature minimalist bounce with prominent percussive drums, barely-there kicks, simple key chords and his penchant for live instrumentation accents with guitars, saxes, and flutes sprinkled around the song. Tay Iwar’s beautiful melodies and heart-warming harmonies swim within the instrumental, narrating desires for the release of a summer getaway with a special one. Coming in as the longest song on the project, it can feel like it lingers a bit long. However, in the right moment, that length is tempered by the sweetness of the song.
Next is my favourite song on the project, “Healing.” Tay Iwar’s sultry production tag ushers in a fantastic futuristic R&B beat, characterised by glittery plucked keys, contagiously bouncy drums, rumbling basslines and sparkling backing synths. Iwar also uses his own vocals as part of the instruments, before layering over them with ridiculously versatile vocal deliveries, incorporating little Rema-esque inflections into his sweeping harmonised runs. The thinning effects employed on the chorus complete the intentional brilliance displayed in the assembly of this song.
“Juice” brings a slight Hip-Hop flavour to the project, featuring British rapper, Knucks, with a buttery rapped verse over a spacious Hip-Hop beat anchored by jazzy piano chords and an unusual electronic synth. Tay Iwar’s delivery fits nicely into the Hip-Hop bounce as, with faster cadences and shorter syllabic phrases, he sings about the pedigree of his subject.
“Bon Appetit” follows suit perfectly, maintaining the Hip-Hop vibe with trilling synths, rolling hi-hats, a deep pulsing 808 bass, and sharp clacking snares. American rapper, IDK, features on the song, providing a verse rife with Melodic Trap elements; autotuned vocals, falsetto infusions, and staccato rap-sung flows.
“Don’t Lie” brings us back into the realms of Afro-Fusion contemporary R&B, announcing itself with sensuous strummed guitars and midtempo drums. Tay Iwar begins in his breathy lower register as he reminisces and confesses his role in a failed relationship. As the story unfolds, he draws on his full range, allowing the roller coaster of emotions to be represented in his sung melodies. The sombreness of the song is reflected in the rarity of harmony lines, keeping the song sounding straightforward in that respect. Bass synths and hefty snare rolls highlight climaxes in the song as the narrative picks up and winds down.
The introspection continues on “Broken Promises” as its intro gives way to rattling hi-hats, emotive guitars, atmospheric pads, and straightforward drums. With honest and expressive vocals, Tay Iwar apologises for his relational shortcomings, reassuring “You know, I die for you, I die for you, And that’s on my life, You know, Everything that I do is for you.” Ghanaian-British act, Kojey Radical, makes a significant appearance on the song, rapping his way through a thoughtful moment of soul-searching and self-expression.
The project closes out with “Soul Searching” bringing to the surface a number of themes that have been explored throughout the tracklist, such as self-doubt and confusion, with lyrics like, “Can’t believe my soul still searching for an answer, In the light I’m looking for the darkness, In my mind I’m running from the danger, I’ve been running from myself.” With its thumping 808 basses, rifling hi-hats, and sharp snares, the song returns to the previously experienced Hip-Hop approach. This stops the song from feeling too brooding.
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At this point in his career, Tay Iwar has become a beacon of consistency. He demonstrates an almost unrivalled attention to detail and quality in everything he does. As a producer, as a songwriter, as a vocalist, and as a mixing engineer, Tay Iwar exemplifies creativity, and professionalism.
Summer Breeze is no different. The themes seem to be testament to where Iwar currently is in his life as it follows Love & Isolation to dwell on themes of self-assessment, love and honesty, introspection and personal healing, and growth. The production sets the stage majestically, combining sobriety with energy in its instrumentation, Soul & R&B influences with the drive of Hip-Hop, soft melodic atmospheres with bouncy effervescent drum pockets. There is simplicity where needed and sonic opulence used sparingly for effect.
With his vocals, Tay Iwar only improves. There is a maturity in his understanding and application of melody. His singing has always been strong and bright, making the most of his unique vocal timbre. His recent efforts have shown that he has added emotional expressiveness to his toolbox, and he is mastering that tool, communicating the nuances of his lyrical themes in his vocal performances as well. This is a skill that has been blossoming since his 2015 offering, “Pain.” That skill is a veritable weapon on this project that deals with often-internalised feelings. The song-writing is another key implement when broaching such a theme. Tay Iwar’s approach is subtle, dealing more in subtext as he tells tales of personal experiences that hint at the emotions within. Only on “Soul Searching” does he seem to bare the feelings openly and address them head-on.
Tay Iwar mixes his own vocals, and the engineering across board is top notch. There are a few spots where lyrics don’t come across crystal clear, or instruments seem to get overpowered by their peers in the mix, but these moments are few and far between.
Summer Breeze is a timely breath of fresh air in a crowded release window. The sonic sweetness and thematic poignance of the project make it an interesting companion for the quieter days. Tay Iwar’s ladder to the top has been unwavering since his career began, and Summer Breeze is just the next rung in that seemingly steady ladder.
Lyricism – 1.7
Tracklisting – 1.6
Sound Engineering – 1.6
Vocalisation – 1.7
Listening Experience – 1.5
Rating – 8.1/10
Yinoluwa “Yinoluu” Olowofoyeku is a multi-disciplinary artist and creative who finds expression in various media.