EP Review: ada ardor – Secret Sunday Service
ada ardor has been riding a wave of hype with singles from her upcoming EP "Secret Sunday Service" popping up on the radars of BBC, KEXP and Rolling Stone. And now its our turn to trumpet her sonically bold and disarmingly sincere tunes. The EP is scheduled for release on May 10, but we've had the privilege of an early listen.

The first track "Sun On My Floor" serves as a perfect introduction into ada ardor's world. It's a quiet storm of washed out and elegantly faded synths carrying her ethereal and hauntingly vulnerable vocals. Most of its textures are soft and ambient, but there are demons lurking underneath the serene surface. ada and her producer Max Mannone add unexpected sonic colours to the landscape. The one sound that caught our ear is the low hum of what sounds like a synth brass. It starts off as a quiet and subtle spicy detail and then grows in shape and volume, further dominating the sonic picture, like an obtrusive thought that you can't cast away. But then it gets swallowed by the reverberated wall of synths, leaving room for the vocals to shine and tell the story.

"Horse" is highly melodic and retro-driven. It carries an imprint of sounds from ada's childhood: pop names that were big in Eastern Europe in the 80s – Sandra, CC Catch, Eurythmics. The washed out character of the music makes you feel like the song is being played from another room in the flat. The grown ups are listening to their Japanese recorder in the kitchen (a real artefact from the singer's past), while you are keeping yourself busy in your room. There are sampled vocal chops present in the mix, and they feel like snippets from the parents' conversation or strangers shouting outside your window, further adding to the atmosphere.

"Kingdom Locked" keeps the imaginary radio playing, starting off with a drum break that instantly brings to mind Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up", another childhood soundtrack (mine as well). The song is slow and meditative. By the third track on the EP I started feeling like I'm in a kind of trance. This induced another childhood memory in me – riding a bus home from school. Your head is pressed against its cold window. You are riding, counting trees, until everything becomes a blur and you are no longer yourself. At certain points in the song the vocals also become part of this all-consuming blur, to the point where you can't even understand what language the song is sung in (Japanese? Russian?). But sudden bumps on the road can wake you up. There are loud and slightly dissonant synths, like on the first track, and structural turns, that never let you forget yourself and the world completely.

And then the "Dream Trance" comes again (yes, this is the name of the next song). Jokingly or sincerely (by this point you can't tell anything), its 80s and 90s-inspired sound aesthetic gets dominated by trance synths, with hints of ambient and New Age. The spoken word parts unexpectedly bring to mind Enigma's first album, another parents' stereo staple.

The EP ends with "Right", another song so rich with sonic references, most of them probably unconcious, that you can't really catch and count them all (mostly become they come in and out of focus so fast). My main impressions were Mylene Farmer (and her underrated protege Alizee) and Russian pop with its charmingly cheesy lead synth melodies (Oleg Gazmanov's hits, if I had to name one association).

Overall, the EP is a must-listen. It's fresh, it's rich, it's layered and it's so sincere! You can feel how every sonic nuance is personal to the artist and how carefully each word was chosen, even if you can only catch glimpses of lyrics because of the creative mixing choices. Put May 10 on your calendars and listen to the pre-album singles to make your wait more pleasant.