The roster of artists under Drake’s OVO Sound label have been using coldness as an ambience to their sound for years. With Toronto as their moodboard, it’s an ambience that’s produced a brisk strain of confessional R&B which foregrounds production while maintaining the commercial brevity of a pop song.
On The Space Between, Jordan Ullman, the production half of the duo, encircles the beats and synths more organically around vocalist Majid Al Maskati than on last year’s bumpy self-titled release. This leads to some of Al Maskati’s sharpest vocal performances to date on tracks like “Gave Your Love Away” and the belted-out chorus to “Asleep.” Ullman produces in a creaky minimalism that’s indebted, ironically, to the bombastic styles of eighties synthpop. As a result, there is an undeniable energy and wistfulness to the album’s mood.
True to its title, The Space Between is about feeling suspended and being blocked, if only temporarily, from catharsis. It’s about being suspended in love. Being suspended in a new city. And being suspended by the past. On highlight “Gave Your Love Away,” Al Maskati is “feeling a way about today” in the grey weather while “moving along” and constantly mishearing missed phone calls. On “Phases,” he shares his experience moving to Toronto at 18 and the difficulties that come with being on your own. None of this marks any departure from the duo’s past two efforts, yet The Space Between is focused in a way those releases aren’t. Ullman’s mixing on the album is tighter and as a result, Al Maskati, with his crisp boyband-like diction, sounds better here than on their older songs. On “One I Want,” he contrasts well against PARTYNEXTDOOR’s lethargic delivery. And on the dvsn-featuring “My Imagination,” he and Daniel Daley vie for the same croons in the chorus.
Returning to ambience, Majid Jordan is appealing on the level that they, like the rest of the OVO roster, make lifestyle music. The Space Between is an R&B Kinfolk magazine for you to aestheticize daily experiences to, even if mundane, like taking the train or just looking out the window. This is the same ambience that’s expressed in the silent intimacy of those OVO portraitures on Instagram. And certainly, you hear it too; after all, it’s no surprise that “Gave Your Love Away” first debuted on a Louis Vuitton walkway. Like the self-serious air of a fashion show, there is a cliche quality to the ruminating The Space Between. Yet as with fashion, the cliches remain pleasing and beautiful in form. This as it turns out, is what makes the scripts of longing on The Space Between so infectious.