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Suté Iwar Immerses Us in His World on Debut LP, “Ultralight”

Suté Iwar Immerses Us in His World on Debut LP, “Ultralight”

Suté Iwar Immerses Us in His World on Debut LP, “Ultralight”

Ultralight is at its best when you allow yourself to be fully immersed in the soundscape it creates, and the narrative it presents in that soundscape…

By Yinoluwa Olowofoyeku

Suté Iwar might be a relatively new name to the uninitiated, but as the kids say, “If you know, you know.” Yes, he’s the brother of the more widely known Tay Iwar, and just like Tay, he’s been plying his trade officially since about 2014. This means he’s not a newcomer by any means. In fact, while Ultralight is touted as Suté’s debut album, it also happens to be his sixth studio project. And once you know that, it becomes very apparent how much experience and understanding, craft and intention, focus and direction went into putting this album together.

Ultralight is one of the most conceptually cohesive projects I have heard this year. Held together by the conceit of a documentary, the Afro-fusion rapper and singer seamlessly blends R&B, Soul, Hip-Hop, and even Reggae influences to create an immersive and distinctive sonic landscape through which he weaves autobiographic narratives; detailing his roots, fears, hopes, inspirations, values, ideas, advice, and experiences.

The album’s documentary narrative is set right away on “Global Warming” as we are introduced to our narrators who guide us through the tale. Their conversation is backed by jazzy keys that set the instrumental tone for the rest of the album. This tone is fully realised on “Signs.” The album’s sonic palette is mostly comprised of smooth guitar and piano chords, topped by sparse midtempo drums arranged in varying off-kilter syncopations which generate a lot of listening interest. Another common theme set up in “Signs” is the presence of an ending sample or voiceover which ties the songs back to the central throughline narrative. On “Signs,” this includes our narrator referencing Suté Iwar’s 2014 project, Jeli, before the next track glides in seamlessly.

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This next track is “Judah Lion” featuring the illustrious WurlD. The track is built on spacey reversed guitar chords and sparse thumping drums, keeping on the established theme. WurlD and Suté drone passionately about how wonderful their lover is.

“Shuga Peach” is a bouncy two-parter focused on themes of love, and the challenges of monogamy in relationships. The sultrier aspects of the song are delivered softly over a powerful bassline and ethereal saxophone runs, which I wouldn’t be surprised to learn are courtesy of Suté himself, as he is a saxophone player. The second half of the song softens up and addresses the more sensitive themes before being ushered out by what sounds like a personal voicenote, further driving home the intended autobiographical nature of the album.

“Meditate” is an aptly meditative offering built on a popular jazzy piano sample. Spacious drums lead the meditation session as Suté, Tay Iwar, and Lex Amor fill the soundscape with relaxing melodies and lyrics championing self-care, rest, and relaxation in whatever forms they may come.

“ID” brings us back to the documentary story, fleshing out the beginnings of Suté’s musical journey in vivid detail over an evolving version of the backing initial backing instrumentals we heard right from “Global Warming.”

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Suté Iwar

“Earth Angel” ushers in rapping Suté on a kicking boom-bap Hip-Hop beat. Suté immediately puts his wordplay and dexterous flow on display as washed-out synths lay the foundation for hard-hitting strait-laced rap drums. Ogranya features to provide a brief but a moving hook.

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“Space Cowboy” is a confidence anthem wherein Suté and featured Outer South label-mate, Tim Lyre, uplift themselves by boasting their pedigree over a delightful soulful SuperSmashBroz beat. It feeds right into the “Need4Speed” interlude which brings you right into the room with Suté’s first music group and their recording conditions.

“Ice Dub” takes a surprising turn, leaning on Reggae elements with chugging guitars and energetic love drums. Suté enlists Abuja songstress, Efe Oraka, to assist with a message encouraging people to allow themselves the space to take breaks and have a good time.

“The Pleasure Principle” bares its intent in its title, being a song about the carnal pleasures to be found in the company of beautiful women. The sensual stories are woven atop RayTheBoffin’s signature futuristic Afro sound featuring filtered chords, electro synths, rattling shakers, and reimagined Afrobeat drums. Being another Outer South artiste, RayTheBoffin gifts his label-mate a springy catchy chorus, while Suté uses his lower register to recount tales of trysts, and question the pursuit of pleasure. The song ends with a passage of suggestive moans to nail the topic home.

“Big World Baby” is a motivational tune and another two-parter beginning with a heavy-hitting segment characterised by bouncy 808 drums and shimmering guitar passes all atop simple key chords. The second part is a laid-back segment focused more on keys, creating a lot of space for Suté and Nigerian rapper, Shalom Dubas, to broaden horizons about the possibilities for the youth.

“Star Player” is another motivator, declaring everyone the star player in their own story. Suté and UK rapper, kadiata, rap and sing over a funky instrumental comprising bubbly basses, electric synths and airy percussion-heavy drums.

The album rounds out with one more analogue track, “The Light.” Strummed guitars are backed by boisterous live drums and numerous drum rolls. Suté’s flow blends perfectly with the instrumentals and Twelve XII features to add alternative energy to see the song and the album off.

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Ultralight’s greatest success is in its cohesiveness. While Suté has created a number of songs that are very good in their own individual rights, it is amazingly evident that the creative intention was to produce an album; a cohesive whole greater than the sum of its part, a complete experience to be enjoyed in its entirety. The presentation of the album as a sort of documentary through Suté’s past and into his present is an interesting and mostly successful conceit. Although that narrative falls off towards the tail end of the album (surprisingly also ending without much of an outro or conclusion), it does so much to set up the beginning of the journey, pulling the listener into the world of the album.

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The cohesiveness is then furthered and cemented in the sonic environment of the album. 90% of the album was produced by Suté Iwar himself, with only about 3 of 15 songs credited to other producers. This means that Suté could effectively use the same instrumental palette throughout the album. And you can hear that. Certain elements and sounds feature on multiple songs which subconsciously connects them. Even where the production was handled by third-parties, the enlisted producers did well to stick to the script, providing understated instrumentals with similar sonic compositions: breezy guitars, simple chords, spacious syncopations. The songs were increasingly conjoined by the various interludes and voiceovers. They served as the glue between songs, allowing instrumentals to blend into one another and serving as the connecting tissue for themes and topics, keeping the ideas almost conversational in how they flowed from one to the next. Even the instrumentals backing the voiceovers evolved over the course of the album, incorporating elements from the songs around them.

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With the tonal direction set, Suté transitioned from producer to artist, and he displays his duplicity by singing and rapping on various tracks across the runtime. The front end of the album sees mostly singing Suté, as he draws on simple melodies, clear enunciation and an understanding of harmony to deliver his messages. Admittedly, Suté is not blowing any socks off with his singing prowess; yet he makes the most of what he does, allowing his delivery to vary as needed and sit within the right pockets considering that all the songs are quite chill and laid-back. Rapper Suté makes a strong impression as well on the back end of the album, putting fast staccato flows, clever wordplay, and playful tonality on display. I would say the only shortcoming of Suté’s vocal delivery across the project is that there isn’t much by way of variation. Both singing and rapping, Suté doesn’t do much to throw us a curveball or add an unexpected flavour into the mix. On its own, this isn’t a problem. But on an album that is already quite homogenous sonically, this can mean that to an unkeen listener, some of the songs can blend together and get lost in the shuffle. Typically, inviting features in can aid with this as they would bring their own unique vocalisations to the mix. However, with the way Suté uses his features, they are very much complimentary voices, leaving him to do the heavy melodic lifting. With that said, though, it would be incorrect to say that the featured artistes did not each leave a very significant mark on their songs.

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Another very strong suit highlighted across Ultralight is Suté’s writing and thematic focus. Bolstered by the autobiographical presentation of the album, Suté’s writing possesses a bright honesty, genuine positivity, and cutting candidness. He speaks on well-trodden topics without needing to rely on clichés. His storytelling is solid, his raps are full of nuggets of wisdom as well as playful figures of speech. In a funny way, he manages to make bold interesting statements without sounding like he intended to seem profound. Suté’s music sounds like conversations with a broad-minded friend, to lift a phrase from one of the interludes.

All in all, Ultralight is an album that I recommend you listen to front-to-back. That is how I maintain you get the most out of what it has to offer. And I think this is very intentional from Suté Iwar. While there are definitely songs that can be picked out and enjoyed on their own merit (most especially for me, the likes of “Space Cowboy,” “Meditate,” and “The Pleasure Principle”), I think Ultralight is at its best when you allow yourself to be fully immersed in the soundscape it creates, and the narrative it presents in that soundscape.

Lyricism – 1.6

Tracklisting – 1.7

Sound Engineering – 1.4

Vocalisation – 1.4

Listening Experience – 1.5

Rating – 7.6/10

Yinoluwa “Yinoluu” Olowofoyeku is a multi-disciplinary artist and creative who finds expression in various media.

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