I had the pleasure of catching singer-songwriter WAFIA in a rare live performance in the opening slot for Ta-Ku’s Boiler Room set earlier this year. As well as premiering her lead single ‘Heartburn’ she performed some titillating covers including Jackson 5’s ‘I Want You Back’. With Ta-Ku being very particular about selecting people to bring into his creative fold, it is at the very least indicative of her potential. Her career to this point has also been similarly selective, only showing us her talents on features with Ta-Ku and Japanese Wallpaper since 2012. And, after a painstaking two years, sieving her best material down into five tracks, she has released XXIX through Future Classic.
She has a wide berth of pop, R&B and folk, which whilst may stand as a daunting prospect, she negates it with clever and sparing use of instrumentation adding both sophistication and mystery to her music. This minimalist approach is oversaturating in contemporary music, with a lot of imitators and musicians styling instead of writing, but WAFIA cuts through with genuine musicianship and intriguing songwriting.
It may be a lofty comparison to draw, but her vocals are instantly infectious and she uses multiple vocal hooks to sustain the listener’s attention in a similar vein to pop tycoon Lorde, particularly on tracks like ‘Untitled’.
Whilst the quality is strong across the five tracks, XXIX ultimately revolves around lead single ‘Heartburn’, which reached number one on the Hype Machine charts, but more impressively has garnered the approval of Pharrell; holding down rotation on his Apple Music radio show. The irresistible samplings are hallmarks of a Ta-Ku production and gracefully, give WAFIA the perfect platform to write a radio-worthy tune.
Even the naming of XXIX has a thoughtful metaphor behind it. It is, of course, the Roman numeral for 29, the atomic number for copper. In an interview with The Brisbane Times she explained, “Copper signifies change as it is a transitional metal, in a state of change. In the rain it will oxidise, put it under flames and it turns green, it changes and adapts to the situations it is put under. It’s a metaphor for the state of change I’m in and I felt like that made a lot of sense.”
The concluding track ‘Fading Through’ reveals the most emotive vocals from WAFIA in conjunction with equally ethereal vocals from Vancouver Sleep Clinic. The crisp electronica subsides into a more intimate folk moment, which is so beautiful it almost seems like a tragedy that the EP is so agonisingly short.
It may be a short undertaking, but XXIX is a bright glimpse into the next wave of Australian musicians peeping through the underground.