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Aria Wells’ inaugural album is a set of narcotic, funk-infused jams that revel in the psychedelic universe she has manifested since the Sensi EP.

Greentea Peng’s music has always championed hallucinogenic properties. Subsequent to 2018, when she released her whimsical debut EP, the South East Londoner’s visuals and singles have been unapologetically influenced by psychedelics. Before coming back from South America, Wells was playing covers in Mexico with her band ‘Los Hedonistas. She would only make around £40 a show, blowing a lot of the earnings on drugs, and consequently building the confidence to move back to London and start making music.

MAN MADE, sonically, sounds like she never left South America. The languid instrumentation, zapping synths and funk riddled guitar licks that bubble throughout its 18 tracks feel like one long ayahuasca retreat. The previous, genre bending singles released in the lead up to the album made it very difficult to predict how Peng planned for the album to sound. You enter the record with an element of curiosity, and come out enlightened by the sheer variation of musical arrangement experienced.

Perhaps the biggest difference in Greentea’s output since Sensi, is the introduction of her multi-faceted 7 man backing band the ‘Seng Seng Family’. Their instrumentation has unmasked a whole new dimension to her music, making MAN MADE more expansive and medicinal in feeling. The album’s alchemy was created in a month long, shroom-suffused retreat to Surrey’s countryside. Such settings certainly helped the mind-bending, sensory enhancing experience conceived on this record.

Soaked in spirituality, the album’s lyrical focus is both poetic and provocative. On the opener, Wells croons a cry for self-expression, howling for people to Make Noise upon her band’s spell-binding instrumentation. There are moments when the songstress illustrates a more introspective and intimate nature too. Suffer addresses the mental traumas Peng has experienced over the years: “This dread inside my head, it's grey, try keep the demons at bay” she shrieks with a notable angst to her typically honeyed vocals.

The sheer variety of genres explored on MAN MADE constructs a striking vivaciousness throughout. Lead single Nah It Ain’t The Same blends elements of jazz, jungle, hiphop and psychedelia whilst maintaining a notable coherence and commerciality. This, in part, is down to the faultless executive production of long-life collaborator Ear Buds, who you may also know as the producer of Slowthai’s T N Biscuits. The track’s fluid cello basslines, vinyl scratches, ragga breaks and meditative grooves are highly hypnotic, and beautifully arranged by Ear Buds. Joe Armon Jones is also on hand to provide some jazz-focused keyboard swings.

Elements of the record are also produced by U.K. grime/funky legend Swindle, SAMO & KIKO and dubstep pioneer Mala, who offers his typically deep and sonorous bass modulations to the title track. Despite a range of voices contributing to the album, Greentea Peng never looses site of her end goal. In an age of instant gratification, managing to engage anyone over an 18-track project is an achievement in itself and Wells, with her touching lyricism, accomplishes this.

Written by Liam Cattermole (@liam_cattermole)

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RATING: 8.8/10


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