The 405's features editor on the eponymous new album from Knightstown
Neo-soul is a bit of a trite genre label, but Knightstown transcends any eye-rolling. Brighton-based Michael Aston occupies the instrumentally sparse, emotive R&B space of Sampha or Moses Sumney, but his compositions capture the stillness and precision of delicate electronica. It’s a surprisingly effective marriage between earnest communication and shy vulnerability. Aston trained in classical music, and the interplay of his instruments and electronic loops echo those of an orchestra, while he has discussed the curious overlap between classical symphonies and modern soul. Having quietly operated on the margins for a few years, he’s just released his debut on Fat Cat. It consolidates the soulful intimacy and compositional exactness he’s cultivated as his brand, with his fragile falsetto given ample support from muted percussion and introspective lyricism. He can write catchy melodies too: most recent single Catcher has whiffs of dream-pop and even nu jazz, assured in its structure while on a very basic level absolutely banging. It’s a trait that’s in glorious evidence across the whole record.