Stubborn Heart - Stubborn Heart (One Little Indian)

Electro-soul duo Luca Santucci and Ben Fitzgerald – better known as Stubborn Heart – have made ripples over the past year with their crisp take on the binding post-dubstep currently sweeping the UK underground; though draped in claustrophobic synths and ricocheting snaps of percussion, their soulful arias are inspired by the synth music of the 80s and classic soul of the 60s, adding a fresh twist on the genre. Comparisons have been drawn to SBTRKT, James Blake and Jamie xx, and for good reason, as the gloomy, rich swarms of melody would quite merrily perch on a shelf next to the aforementioned. Already their debut has been lauded, with Rough Trade labelling it their album of the month for November. With a cyclone of hype surrounding the burgeoning London/Oxford pair, they appear to have remained resilient enough to put out a first effort which is quite simply, divine.

Released Nov 4th, 2012 via One Little Indian / By Larry Day
Stubborn Heart - Stubborn Heart (One Little Indian) 'Better Than This' is heralded by clockwork drums; brisk ratatats and inhuman thwacks set a jerky rhythm for the shimmering synths and the silk vocals from Santucci. It's got an obvious pop quality, recalling 90s R&B with the lyrics and weaving luxurious key melodies underneath. Grimy, unnerving bass heartbeats emerge from the shadows to kick off 'Two Times a Maybe'. It definitely leans on the post-dubstep, eschewing the wob-wob of bro-step to take the genre back to basics – halftime drums, snare heavy, with a sinister spiral of bass taking centre stage. Cover of Reuben Bell & The Casanovas' golden soul rarity 'It's Not That Easy' demonstrates their knack for simple pop balladry. Though it may not be originally theirs, they make it their own with a barebones approach, focusing all attention on Santucci's mourning, sometimes fearful, voice and creating a cover version which is delicate and heartfelt.

There's a whole host of post-dubstep acts around at the moments, vying for a share of the limelight. Stubborn Heart set themselves apart with captivating vocals and light pop elements sometimes overlooked in the genre in favour of the skeletal percussion and haunting basslines. They do however, keep some conventions intact, with a downbeat emptiness dominating the timbre and rickety electronica elements providing red-eyed energy.

'Interpol' recalls Grimes in the synthwork, and stands out as a breathy, rhythmic pillar with a hint of middle-eastern influences. It's slightly dischordant, but that imperfection only serves to add an atmosphere of bleakness. Eventually, stabs of churning bass attack the calm, reminding us not to get complacent in our listening. 'Blow' scuttles skittishly into focus, robotic percussion dominating the intro as a BBC wildlife-documentary-style synth pad looms in the horizon. There's an air of tranquillity in the minimalist cut, with only the subtlest of changes occurring in the soft sounds.

The album is another of the year's fine debuts and it would seem like 2012 is the year for up-and-comers to make their mark. Stubborn Heart have done just that, with a seductive flash of corrupted post-dubstep scorched with the branding iron of soul. There are similarities to Hercules And Love Affair in the soul-led electronica, with deep vocals and genuine emotion featuring prominently. This is a band who have completed the difficult task of living up to the hype and delivering a debut that is impressive within a frankly stale genre. With their live debut recently accomplished during last month's Swn Festival, we can surely look forward to a slew of dates in support of their eponymous debut and seeing the glorious electro-soul in action.