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Covered in Satin: Howard Ivan’s Imaginative Pop Conception

Howard Ivans on Selective Memory

Howard Ivans
Beautiful Tired Bodies (Spacebomb)

Howard Ivans is that mysterious yet intriguing figure lurking in the corner of the party. The introvert obscured by shadows and illuminated with moonlight. Yet when he speaks, you hang off of every syllable. Every word derives from an importance that is spoken only to drift into the air. Yet, we remember that fleeting emotion. And we want to reach out and grab the apparition that is merely a ghostly image of that feeling. It’s not ours to claim, but we understand the plight.

Who is Howard Ivans anyway? To better understand that answer, we must ask, what is Spacebomb? From their website, they are more than a mere entity. The Richmond, Virginia, label best describes themselves “with experimentation, courage, and love, we bring our craft to the studio and make a noise that is the choir of our imagination.“ After hearing Beautiful Tired Bodies, that choir of noise of one of R&B satin and an ‘80s soft glow from crystalline beach waters.

It’s easy to try and tag Howard Ivans’ sound with certain bands: Hall and Oates, Billy Ocean, Rick Astley, Go West, Grover Washington, Jr. But realistically, it’s impossible to hold on to that claim, as he sounds like every one of these people and nothing like them combined. Again, it is that fleeting moment. You can thank this aura as it goes to the Spacebomb producers. They act as participants in this sultry cause, arranging and orchestrating the songs to sound as smooth as they possibly can. From the saxophone floating by on “Jump In,” to the string arrangements that exemplify Ivan’s subterranean mood on “They Don’t Know How It Feels,” there is a sense of wonderment as to how big an impact these minimal pieces make.

Howard Ivans (photo by Taylor Bolding)

Howard Ivans on Selective Memory

We may not conclude who exactly Howard Ivans is, but we can proclaim the voice echoing through these songs is more important than mere identity. And in a musical environment of gritty and extroverted pop, the voice is what we will best remember. Utilizing moonlit sonatas, walks on the beach and bubbling lite-funk, there is so much that will swirl around in your head once listening to an otherwise immaculate pop album.

When you look at one of his defining songs on the album, “Back To Life” layers postmodern guitar swoon with ambient synth pastels as backdrops. Ivans never has to prove his confidence, nor does he ever have to stretch his meanings to show off. His voice is a strength of itself. A hyper-realistic statement of comfort explores complex human traits like love or uncertainty.

As the album ends, there is just as much mystery into the foray of Howard Ivans as when we began. We’ve experienced Ivans dive into the works of Sade in the past. We understand what lengths he will go to in order to get your attention. Is the general public ready to get on that orchestrated level? In our current broad landscape where louder and weirder is better, it’s hard to say if Beautiful Tired Bodies will stand out. But what is certain is that this album is an entity and stand-alone piece of aural artistry that pushes the envelope of crooning pop and R&B while continuing to preserve its essence.

Andrew Duncan
Dug out from a pile of zines and hot sauce, Andrew Duncan has contributed to many publications through the years, including Chord and work with the ever so spunky Readyset...Aesthetic! He now resides deep within your membrane.

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