In a world where art is compromised and commodified, shrunk down and boxed in, Vicktor Taiwò wants us to open up. The vibrant young singer-songwriter traffics in subtle hints and soaring melodies, slow creeps and grand climaxes. Taiwò is on a mission to collect something from himself, and it’s a journey worth following.
It is the frigid winter of the year 2000 and Vicktor Taiwò, an eight year old, accompanied by his mother and siblings, arrive in East London after leaving behind the visceral warmth of Abeokuta, Nigeria behind. Raised in a Christian home, his exposure to performing music came as it does for many with gifted vocal ability; honing skills and crafting harmonies in church choirs.
Years forward and disillusioned by his decision to study Law & Business at university, Vicktor Taiwò makes a choice that alters the course of his life permanently. After encouragement from friends and a brief stint as a frustrated photographer, Taiwò decides on January 1, 2012 precisely - as he does with most things - that he would make music his medium.
Once he started uploading his songs online, listeners caught on quickly. Without label or publisher, he found himself synced on shows like Girls and Dear White People. JUNO, Vicktor’s self-released debut EP, was met with praise by the likes of Vice, Billboard, and Okayplayer for its lean, focused approach to song structure, and for its withering, poetic lyrics.
Even at such an early stage in his development, Taiwò was finding angles that most songwriters would neglect. “At this point, all I really think there is for humans to do is to explore detail,” he says. “To see how infinite an infinitely expanding universe really is, and how small the smallest particle really is.”
His debut album, Joy Comes in Spirit, is at once experimental and comforting – collected shards of soul and style reassembled into something entirely new. Due out on Innovative Leisure, the record introduces a bold new artist willing to take musical and lyrical risks, and to bare himself to an international audience. The result is an arresting, unforgettable work that shrugs off the expectations we have that musicians fit easily into recognizable molds.
A fearless writer, on “Letters I Wrote,” Taiwò opens with a remarkable scene: “If you never see sunlight again / And the sun turns black and makes you so afraid / Can you find the light within to fight the night?” It’s a note to self of course; from Joy Comes in Spirit’s first note, Vicktor is mining his own psyche for its dark depths and hidden crevices, demanding from himself the sort of emotional reaction his work incites in others.
Songs like “Subducta. Psalm 69,” a seven-minute, multi-part epic, echo contemporary hip-hop; “tDS (Surf)” seems designed to be sung around campfires in the distant future; “Supernatural Women” traces 808s & Heartbreak back to its Zappian roots. And “Summon,” one of the record’s highlights, is like if you trapped a troubled spirit in a GameBoy Colour.
Vicktor Taiwò is emotionally complex. His album’s beautiful closer, “Morning Joy,” is redemptive, an optimistic look toward better days. It’s hard not to be optimistic in the face of Taiwò’s talent, the kind of which is rarely harnessed so seamlessly, and at such a young age. He’ll be an artist of consequence for years to come, no matter what outside forces threaten to block his path.