As I prepare to go abroad in January, the impending end of the term has forced Yale and me into a tender embrace. We’ve had five wonderful semesters together, but as is the case in almost all college romances, the couple must eventually split, so one of them can go to Prague. It’s tough knowing that you’re in the twilight phase of a relationship with someone, especially when that someone is the world-renowned, private research university you’ve been attending for the last two and a half years. Often, music is the only medicine in moments like these, and of late, “Voice to Voice Lip to Lip” — the funky, “retro” instrumental jam by Russian producer Phil Gerus — has been my remedy of choice.
The entirety of “Opposites Left Together,” the 2014 EP on which the song appears, reads as a slowed-down, sample-heavy tribute to late ’80s, early ’90s R&B. Filled with drum machine claps, saxophones, dramatic inhales and plenty of falsetto, “OLT” feels, at times, like Gerus stumbled upon a couple of my dad’s Gerald Levert CDs and got a little carried away. But it works! In fact, it’s completely and utterly not terrible! The main appeal of “OLT” for millennial ears such as mine is that it is as much a replication of aesthetics as it is a work of music. Through smart-sampling and heavy vocal lathering, Gerus is able to conjure up the velvet-smooth swagger of the R&B of a bygone era, in a way that feels appealingly before my time, while actually being quite new. It’s as if he edited the entire project with a “New Jack Swing” Instagram filter. It’s ’94 Keith Sweat without the ’94 and the Keith Sweat. It’s false nostalgia. It’s sonic Buzzfeed. And I love it.
“Voice to Voice Lip to Lip,” the first track on the EP and the song I’ve had on heavy rotation these last couple of weeks, is a wonderful collage of female vocal samples, teasing synthesizer and an irresistible bass line. The song begins with a pulsing, slow-tempo drum kick. Next, the voices of an angelic chorus rise in an “oooooo.” And, by the time the song’s sensuous hook, “ohhh help me feel gooddd,” kicks in, you’re already lost. It’s dancey. It’s seductive. It sounds like a Janet Jackson mood board. As I sit and write this, it’s taking every ounce of strength in my body not to indulge in the close-eyed two-step that this song demands, though I’m sure the guy sitting next to me editing his thesis probably wouldn’t mind. In a 2013 interview with the music blog, “Truants,” Gerus told Jess Melia that he was constantly searching for “sexy melodies.” With “Voice to Voice Lip to Lip,” he has definitely found them. And they have definitely found me.