Review // China Bowls demonstrates a new potency as she unveils her latest single at Jam Jar

The Bristol neo soul artist and her band put on a show that was tighter than ever

Last month, Bristol’s own hip hop influenced neo soul artist China Bowls celebrated the launch of her new single The Way with ‘Jam Packed’ show at Jam Jar. After the successful release of her EP on Saffron Records last year, this spells the first of many new singles in the pipeline.

Joined by beatboxing poet Solomon O.B and downtempo electro-pop band 4th Project, Bowls put on a red wine and fairy light infused mini-festival of heartwarming talent and demonstrates her trajectory of bigger things to come.

Bowls put on a red wine and fairy light infused mini-festival of heartwarming talent

In tribal get up Solomon O.B is flanked by guitarist (and trusty stead) Alun Elliot Williams (Waldo’s Gift), whose riffs jutt alongside Solomon’s chanted, distorted beats. ‘It started when you stopped’ hangs in the cool air, ‘stopped ignoring the voice inside’. Smoke rises as Solomon taps and wields a rhythm, staggering he embodies his impromptu trance as the riddle untangles to leave something clear.

Transient but witty, Solomon begins, ‘I wish…I wish…I wish those people at the back would stop talking’, the quip lands with a little shake of sass. A natural wordsmith and rhythm maker, his spiritual rap is enforced by Williams’ jagged guitar as they improvise their way through an invigorating set.

A natural wordsmith and rhythm maker, his spiritual rap is enforced by Williams’ jagged guitar as they improvise their way through an invigorating set

Next up, the warming, ebony vocals of 4th Projects’ lead singer hum through the crowd. Kathleen Fitzpatrick Milton has an understated stage presence, reminding me of Clementine from Kudu Blue rocking up simply to present her sound. New single Taking Me Over has keys as delicate and beautiful as Coldplay’s Clocks. Cinematic atmospheres and the click and release of distorted beats add an urban edge to this stunning yet woeful love song. Still down to have fun, the trio launch into TLC’s Say My Name to a very happy crowd of a 90s youth.

Cinematic atmospheres and the click and release of distorted beats add an urban edge to this stunning yet woeful love song

China Bowls jumps on stage and exclaims, ‘You’re wonderful’ to the merry lot. ‘I’m not’ is thrown from the back, and she’s instantly hit off a rapport with her audience. There is a dramatic development in the band, already a tight group, tonight they communicate closely to perform a polished, on point sound. Keys are cheeky and neat, grooves are gloopey and satisfying, and guitar throngs as they lull and skip through their hip hop rhythms. Bowls’ voice has matured, her charming twang relaxed into longer, floatier heights. Williams is back on stage, filling gaps you didn’t realise existed as he weaves riffs through Bowls’ intricate songwriting. Together it’s like a pot of glue has been poured over the whole group.

Bowls’ voice has matured, her charming twang relaxed into longer, floatier heights

Everything is revved up. Only Love has enough attitude to be a 90s R&B song, the band thumping their instruments in controlled rhythm. Bowls embodies the sass of the song. Her own vigorous strums taking ownership of the pulsating powerhouse behind her, finishing together in one final saucey riff. Stay sees the band crouch down, as Bowls alone captivates with painful sentiment and knowing lyrics. ‘I need to find a better place to keep my heart, other than my sleeve’ sends shivers as we relate in the struggle of carrying on.

New material finds its way into the set as South African cheeky rhythms come out to play, and at times there is almost a tropical, summery vibe, bringing me back to the days of Corinne Bailey Rae. Finally, new single The Way is a catchy hit. Soulful vocals and glimmering splatters of piano bring a chilled groove in to an affecting repetition of remembrance.

the band was one lively organism that delivered a smooth, professional sound

Sprawling out into the cold night there is a distinct feeling of a good time had. It was an inspiring night. Not only did China Bowls shine with her command, crystal voice and clever songwriting but tonight the band was one lively organism that delivered a smooth, professional sound. With The Way still ringing in my head, I look forward to seeing what comes next.

Words by Megan India McGurk
Photo Lee Ramsey

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