Words by:
Photography: Lengua, Taylor Thoroski and Honour

On Honour’s debut album, the end is the beginning. Closing track Àlàáfía (Cita’s World), a sweeping expanse of crackling ambient, was the first the Chicago-via-London artist wrote for the record, which is also called Àlàáfía. It’s dedicated to his beloved late grandmother and was written shortly after she passed; a raw processing of grief, meditating on the final moments they spent together.

Honour’s memory of his grandmother echoes throughout the entire LP. He recalls with pride how she had “one of the first radio shows” about Itshekiri culture broadcast via Nigerian station WNTV, and if you listen closely, the lo-fi scuzz that weaves in and out of the record recalls the burr of radio static. Likewise, the use of strings, buried beneath washes of noise and loaded with joy and melancholy simultaneously, are perhaps a nod to “the gospel music she started making in her later life”.

Honour grew up with a love for rap, R&B and music from the African diaspora, such as Yoruba waka singer Batile Alake, prolific musicologist Godwin Sadoh and Afrobeat percussionist Lagbaja. But these touchstones only tell part of the story of Honour’s heavy, heartsore sound.

“I’m always looking back, but more to see what hasn’t been done,” Honour says of his studious approach to production. “It’s like, ‘OK, how can we try to make this feel new? How are things going to progress? What’s coming after this?’ That’s really interesting to me.” On Àlàáfía, he’s sculpted a sound that gorgeously merges the complex beatmaking of hip-hop instrumentals with swooping electronic sound design (imagine the jazz-inflected stylings of Donuts fed through the spectral devastation of Disintegration Loops). “I’m quite drawn to this collage of different textures because it’s quite expressive,” he says. “I find it more stimulating to listen to, perhaps more than a linear piece of music.”

Àlàáfía is around 50 minutes long, presented as a sequence of aural vignettes made from blown-out beat loops, field recordings and distorted sounds conjured from a demo version of Ableton. The album, written between London, New York and Lagos, is a profound document of heartache and death, but also joy, tenderness and praise. And like the complex emotions that arise from bereavement, Àlàáfía moves and shifts constantly like a sonic montage.

“I was just trying to have fun with it,” Honour explains of this elaborate undertaking. “I only had a demo version of Ableton so I couldn’t revisit tracks – I’d have to screen-record it then take it back in [to the software]. It was a really fucking long process, actually!” This process perhaps explains the raw, potent quality of Àlàáfía; recordings are layered on top of each other to the point where Honour’s tracks take on a ghostly quality. “I’m not a trained musician. I played [my album] to my sisters and they were kind of scared of it! They said it was dark. But it could get a lot darker.”

For now, Honour is working to bring these emotive, meticulously crafted compositions of love and loss to stages across the world. The live show, he explains, will be tailored to each room it’s performed in, from Turin’s C2C Festival to an undisclosed location in Lagos in December, back where this journey began. “I think my grandmother would just be happy,” Honour concludes, smiling, “that I’m doing it.”

Sounds like: Washes of jazz-imbued ambient
Soundtrack for: Intimate headphone moments
File next to: Space Afrika, Aïsha Devi
Our favourite song: U&Me (decemberseventeen)
Where to find him: Honour2.bandcamp.com

Àlàáfía is out now via PAN