She appears on Other Voices' London special tonight and with Emeli Sandé fatigue possibly setting in, Mvula deserves her own place in the moonlight
It’s pronounced mmm-voola and rarely has onomatopoeia made more sense. This 25-year-old graduate of the Birmingham Conservatoire with a degree in composition has a spookily sensuous voice and the lush cinematic arrangements to match on her seductive debut.
She’s already been labelled gospeldelia, called "Nina Simone sings the Beach Boys”, and won comparisons with sci-fi pop goddess Janelle Monáe. Or maybe Mvula makes futuristic chamber pop. But what really glows at the heart of Sing to The Moon is solid song-writing with a lightness of touch that can suddenly expand into mind-blowing, kaleidoscopic vistas.
It’s exotic and otherworldly stuff with nods to George Gershwin and Simone. Contemplative seas of tranquility (yup) seem to be Mvula's forte on the likes of You Can’t Live With The World with its drowsy vocal, harp and heavenly choir, and Father, Father, a calm but pleading appeal to her estranged dad. But the tribal bounce of That's Alright and Green Garden, a homage to her childhood neighbourhdood of King's Heath in Brum, come on a lot stronger with killer back-beats and giddy energy.
On Is There Anyone Out There, she sounds like she's singing into vast, unfathomable space while the title track's marital drumming, sleazy trumpet and violin stabs add to an exotic range of instrumentation and moods.
It may be a bit schooled and mannered in places but Sing to The Moon remains intriguing and insinuating. Mvula is the best thing to come out of Birmingham since Tony Hancock.