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SERPENTWITHFEET blisters Tri Angle

If New York’s Tri Angle label is, as their bio says, “haunted by the need to find things that will haunt us,” then signing Josiah Wise, aka serpentwithfeet, must have provided them with a great sense of satisfaction. The 28-year-old Harlem-based artist effortlessly blends slinky RnB slides with neo-soul and gospel elements to create songs with an emotional impact that lingers.

Although his earlier demos disappeared from the internet, one line from Wise’s earlier Soundcloud releases resonated a theme that’s echoed in this EP: “being lonely is not a win/ being a slave to hatred is not a win”. Some might perceive the smoothness of Wise’s sound almost contrary to his striking, heavily-modified physical appearance, and thematically, blisters reflects on feelings of love, loneliness, identity and spirituality. In flickering, Wise sings: “My will is strong/ take this body as yours/ I offer myself to you”. The imagery could be perceived as sexual, or a reference to his Christian upbringing.

Wise’s goth-gospel approach is, nonetheless, refreshingly honest. “How can I touch somebody who can’t even touch themselves?” he sings in brassy RnB track four ethers, perhaps an allusion to his own transformation to a proudly queer individual. “I am constantly looking for ways to make my music extra gay and extra black,” Wise said in an interview last year. Through blisters, Wise breaks down the conventional boundaries of blackness, gayness and otherness, and the beauty of the results is accessible by all.