REVIEW: Nocturnal Sunshine

Kelly Kirwan

Maya Jane Coles is a badass. No other designation can cut it; she’s got that effortless cool that’s impossible to mimic, and a track record that makes it hard for her contenders to keep up. The native Londoner has cemented herself as a DJ, music producer and audio engineer by having a full handle on every track she releases, like the feverishly catchy “What They Say” that took the club scene by storm (and recently acted as the backbone to Nicki Minaj’s “Truffle Butter”). On top of that, she’s remixed for groups like Massive Attack, Rudimental, and Gorillaz, while also picking up a thing or two on taxidermy from the specialist Harriet Horton—who happens to be her roommate. Like I said: badass.

With such a strong foothold in electronica—and hell, the music industry in general—it’s always interesting when an artist forgoes the sway of their name and assumes a new “identity.” For Coles, this alter ego is Nocturnal Sunshine, which also serves as the title of her latest LP. It’s an album that departs from Coles’ mainstays of house music and remixes to explore dubstep in more depth. It’s an interesting compilation—a series of brooding beats and trance-like hooks that create a darker kind of dance music.

One of the more hypnotic tracks, “Believe,” features the up-and-coming singer Chelou spouting lyrics like, “Patience ain’t no virtue of mine / My patience is wearing thinner all the time.” These words, with their dreamy delivery, add a touch of irony to Coles' textured backtracks. In fact, the LP has a generally chilled-out vibe that’s far from boring. As Coles described her style, “I’d try to put something more innovative and darker in the mainstream market. I don’t think it’s in me to make ‘happy happy’ music.” It’s a new view of dubstep that she pulls off with impressive grace.

Other notable tracks include the bass-laden “Drive,” that’s accompanied by Coles’ own far-off, echoing vocals. Really, I’d just love to hear her sing more often. She has a soft delivery that juxtaposes her deep-toned rhythms, leaving us with some pretty persistent earworms. Nocturnal Sunshine may not be the kind of LP you play for the body-banging rave scene, but it definitely pulls you in for low-key nights or contemplative spells. (But of course, tracks like “Skipper” land more on the up-tempo spectrum if you’re looking to get a groove on).

Going through the entire album, it becomes increasingly clear why Coles chose Nocturnal Sunshine for its title and her alias. Its tracks are drawn in shades of black and grey without a doom and gloom personality. The fact that Coles can sew together all these opposing elements into a compilation that’s complex, but not mismatched, is a testament to her talent. Under thirty and already conquering the underground and mainstream music scenes shows there’s much more to come from Maya Jane Coles under whatever name she chooses. Until then, we’ll continue to get lost in her latest venture, finger ready to click replay.