PRODUCER SPOTLIGHT: pastels, Chelsea Warner, Elsy Wameyo, DVNA
There’s something super exciting about finding out an artist has produced their own track. It’s even more exciting when one discovers that said artist is female. In Volume 2 of our ‘Producer Spotlight’ segment, we’re focusing on four producers who are experts at their craft within the R&B and hip-hop spaces and who just happen to be women.
Chelsea Warner is one of Sydney’s best-known producers who is well-entrenched in the local soul and R&B scene, whilst Elsy Wameyo’s cutting-edge 2022 EP ‘Nilotic’ is entirely self-produced. Melbourne’s pastels has made a name for herself within the lofi and chill-hop world, and DVNA pairs new-age soul and R&B to make lush, certain-to-be stuck-in-your-head beats.
pastels is a Melbourne-based producer known primarily for her ethereal lo-fi beats. Her 2021 EP ‘Nights Like This’ features six calming jazzy beats that traverse a multitude of keys, guitar, horns, and of course, vinyl layers. ‘Out of Office’, a lo-fi R&B project, has amassed over 3 million streams on Spotify alone, whilst her previous full-length release ‘cafe a.m’ is also well worth a listen. A collaboration between pastels and Mr. Hong, ‘cafe a.m’ retains a true lo-fi flavour, elevated by the inclusion of various vocalists and MCs from around the globe. pastels is also behind the sensual and soothing production on Elysia’s 2021 track ‘Cherry Moon’. Incorporating elements of 90s R&B — think chimes, rimshots and sultry electric keys — pastels gives Elysia the perfect canvas to tell her own story. It’s clear that she’s a versatile producer, but with a very grounded sense of her sound: cool and calm, but never dull. Listeners can expect to hear a new side of pastels later this year.
Chelsea Warner is well-known in the Sydney scene, and for good reason. She’s an uber-talented singer, multi-instrumentalist and killer producer who draws inspiration from Solange, J Dilla and Ariana Grande, amongst others. With production credits on tracks by the likes of Nardean, Gemma Navarrete, ANGE and Anieszka, as well as a self-produced 2021 debut EP ‘Drama’ under her belt, Chelsea’s beats are both silky and energetic, infusing 90s hip hop and soul influences with modern-day upbeat R&B. She’s meticulous in the studio, pairing pop melodies, blunt and self-deprecating lyricism and cool R&B beats for a sound that is instantly recognisable. For an introduction to her sound, listen to ‘Same Shit!’ by Gemma Navarrete, ‘Blush’ (off of Drama), and ‘NYE’ (a personal fave of mine, available on Soundcloud).
Elsy Wameyo wrote and produced every song on her 2022 release, ‘Nilotic’. It’s a confident and eclectic exploration of strength and identity, heavily influenced by Elsy’s Kenyan heritage, as well as the work of Kendrick Lamar and Ludwig Göransson (‘Black Panther’, Childish Gambino). It’s a deeply personal, politically-driven work, full of outrage and pain born from her experience as a black woman in a world geared towards hatred: “what you will hear is a journey of confidence and frustration as I attempt to deconstruct what the world has so cruelly constructed”. Akin to Little Simz and Sampa the Great, her music is steeped in cultural heritage, courage and a strong sense of self. Her production is incredibly intricate and expressive, ranging from the thumping afrobeat of the title track, ‘Nilotic’, to the chaotic dreamscape of ‘The Call’. Elsy’s about to go on tour, and we highly recommend checking out one of her incredible shows.
Taking charge of production on her 2020 album ‘All My Friends’ allowed DVNA the creative freedom she needed to find a distinct sound. Written and produced in the artist’s Gold Coast home, the project is an intriguing mix of alt-pop and R&B, with noticeable jazz, reggae and neo-soul influences. Her listening rotation at the time of writing — ELIZA, Tom Misch, Rex Orange County and Raveena — shines through in DVNA’s use of live drum samples, stunning Rhodes chords and charming basslines. Those unacquainted with DVNA’s work should check out ‘When I’m Your Girl’ and ‘More to Give’. Also, to the producers out there, take a look at her Instagram for a tutorial on how she uses live drum loops to program her drums, striving for a natural, human-like feel. Scroll back a bit further to see footage of her putting the beats together for ‘All My Friends’, playing keys, bass, guitar, and fiddling on Ableton like it’s no big deal.
@jmtubera / @fern.ari (pastels Photo 1 / 2), @kezsurya (Chelsea Warner Photos), @kiprography / @jefferson.ofesi (Elsy Wameyo Photo 1 / 2), @soph.delaney.art (DVNA Photo 1)
Words by Portia Brajkovic