Serafia – The Soul Sister of Electronic Dance Music

photo-by-jane-evgeniya-shalakhova-graphics-by-jason-harrisPhoto by Jane Evgeniya Shalakhova. Graphics by Jason Harris.

I’ve been with my girlfriend for what feels like forever (in all the best ways). The day before I met her, I wrote a review for the first single from Serafia (then Serafia Jane), so it makes sense that I feel like I’ve known “Touching My Soul” forever too. I fell in love with that song in another lifetime, and its EDM-based R&B has since burned itself into my brain. I could probably recreate that epic song from memory at this point.

And almost a month ago, Serafia finally followed up on that promise with Touching My Soul EP, where she proves that “Touching My Soul” wasn’t a fluke. Even more than that, she more resolutely defines her sound as a combination of soul and EDM. Her record sounds contemporary while still arriving fresh and original. It’s a treat for any fan of poppy dance music.

Since my knowledge base originates in the classics, I like the touches that recall electronic music of the past that Serafia sprinkles throughout her EP. Most obviously, “One Last Night” references the immortal “Here Comes the Rain Again” from the Eurythmics (“Talk to me / Like lovers do”), but there’s also the subtle piano riff in “Waterfall” that – while not exact – is strongly reminiscent of the melodic line from Moby’s “Porcelain.”

Yet, Serafia manages to keep these references minor, leaving the lion’s share of the musical work to dance-oriented, synth-heavy beats that demand flashing lights and busy feet. “Waterfall” is the most immediate of the tracks, and epitomizes Serafia’s combination of soul (her voice recalls the full-throated power of Tina Turner or Chaka Khan before running up the scale into Mariah ranges) with synth-pop. This has such an insistent dance beat that I kind of never want to stop listening to it.

Fortunately the rest of the album is pretty quality, as well. “Just Do It” is probably the most indie-pop song on the record, with its spare arrangement and slower tempo. “One Last Night” is the track that I would be least surprised to hear while dancing in a club in Europe, with its wall-to-wall synthesizers. “Just Starting to Love You” steals some Lady Gaga attitude (“It doesn’t matter to me if other ho’s want you / ‘cuz I’m still gonna be / your number one bitch”) before opening up to some real emotional vulnerability…while still being crazy danceable, of course.

There’s still nothing quite like Serafia in Austin, but I’m starting to think there might not be anything like her anywhere. I don’t know EDM as well, so I’m not super-qualified to make that call, but she definitely connects new dance music with old school soul in a way that would make Daft Punk proud. I can’t wait to hear what she’ll sound like with a massive production budget.

– Carter Delloro