On Neon Brown (out summer 2019 on 4AD), Velvet Negroni is a griot relaying the life and times of his own island—it’s a singular place, with the squeak and thrum of guitar strings looped over drum machine beats accented by steely marimbas, all creating a pocket for one of the most authentic and original artistic voices ever committed to tape.
You follow his voice as it rhymes in double time, or hiccups and la-las through a break, or croons from a room down the hall, as it unfolds into another story of lost love, or another joke about lost drugs, as he tries to make sense of a life spent in the (sometimes harrowing) pursuit of communion.
Turns out what sounds like a lonely island is in fact the city of Minneapolis. Velvet Negroni grew up in an outer suburb of the Twin Cities as Jeremy Nutzman, a black kid adopted into a white evangelical Christian family. His fundamentalist missionary of a mother drove him to virtuosity, both as a classically trained concert pianist and a competitive figure skater, but he had to climb out his bedroom window to play guitar in his first band.