Album Review: Grand Pax – Wavey EP

[Blue Flowers; 2020]

The singer-songwriter and producer Grand Pax – real name Annie Pax – belongs to London. Born and raised in Kentish Town and educated at Goldsmiths, the city and its sounds have always surrounded and energised her. Alongside artists such as King Krule and Tirzah, she’s the latest of this soulful and serious new wave specialising in smoky and melancholic atmospherics.

Wavey is her second EP of the year, following June’s excellent PWR. The EP was released on the small but impressive London label Blue Flowers, and they appear to be the best place for Pax to nurture her burgeoning talent: roster mates Puma Blue, Nilüfer Yanya, and Westerman all share aesthetic similarities with her.

She first found acclaim in 2018 with her debut single “Comet”, where her voice was stretching and emotive, but Pax has been reducing the heat on her delivery ever since, submerging herself ever further into drowning tone and mood. Like PWR, this EP is again only three tracks long, but this seems to suit Pax’s style: these releases are like triptych mood pieces. She’s primarily motivated to explore textures and shadows, grade and mood, like the Rothko of R&B.

Wavey may only be just over nine minutes long but the trip feels longer. Everything in Pax’s world unravels in slow motion, only enhancing the intimate nature of it all. “Wavey” adheres to its name, combining fluid bass rhythm with her intoxicating manipulated vocals. Pax sounds suffocated, an overthinker lost in the hazy recesses of her mind. Her words are often indecipherable but tone conveys everything that she wants to be said.

“ATV” was a child of lockdown, its subdued introspection borne from the repetitiveness of being in the same spaces and streets every day. It’s infused with a dense and stuttering trap beat and her most emotional chorus sits atop of it. The closing “Trip”, with its quieter and slighter production, invokes the greatest sense of eerie nocturnal melancholy (as well as her English contemporaries, the late night mellow of Frank Ocean is a clear influence). Her voice is at its most hushed as she sings “Place your hands on the wheel / We’ll spill into the night time baby.”

That line summarises Pax. Her music belongs to the uncertain nervous energy of a night out, of falling in and out of love, of growing up and immersing oneself in urban life. She tentatively locates the beauty in the coldness of the London night and it’s not difficult to imagine Pax now soundtracking the journeys she once took around the capital: her tracks suit submerging yourself in as you sit at the back of a double decker, crossing the river from North to South; they’re the perfect intimate accompaniment as you wait for the last tube home.

Pax has delivered another modest collection on Wavey, and the next step is undoubtedly a full studio album: such a release in 2021 will be key to seeing if Pax’s aesthetic art can fulfil the scope of a larger and longer record. It’s refreshing, however, to watch an artist explore her sonic growth at her precise pace; just like her languid tracks, Pax is in no rush.