There’s no doubt that the road Dutch-Ghanian songwriter Nana Adjoa has been travelling to this point has been building to the task of constructing a full-length album.
Piecing together an understanding of yourself is all part of that process; putting all the ingredients into the pot to see just what it is that you’re making, and what will come out the other side.
After exploring her musical abilities noodling on bass in bands during her formative years, she then undertook a jazz program in Amsterdam. Her exploration into the rewards of pop music came after she entered the Netherlands largest pop-music competition (Grote Prijs van Nederland), where the natural want to let the melody simmer and deliver is key. Fast forward to 2017, her debut EP’s were born using a melting pot of these sensibilities, and a natural understanding of songwriting - that a song can scratch an itch in even its barest essence - and it all makes for a rather compelling listen.
Her debut full-length idea comes in the form of Big Dreaming Ants, which in itself is a perfectly apt series of words to describe us humans; just small insects with big dreams that get in our own way through built-up ideologies or personal experience. Whereas the album namesake carries out its duties day by day care-free, for us, we get the pleasure of rumination and running through everything that’s ever happened to us - good or bad - which is where Adjoa's debut finds its face value.
With the delicate dripping of soft gentle tones that greet us into the album, you could be forgiven for taking the notion of hope at face value, but delicately and defiantly approaching all she knows and has seen, Adjoa is taking no prisoners. Weight can be given to the bellowing strikes of piano to create an overarching sense of doom (“Cardboard Castle”), and even the sparsity found in trying to comprehend just who you are is resonated around the delightfully spacious (“I Want To Change”).
A driven flurry comes from “She’s Stronger”, where Adjoa pays homage to a friend who’s “a version of yourself you want to be”. While “In Lesser Light”, a gossamer lament for love, finds the space becoming epic. Tone and meaning are a personal unveiling - not bad given its Adjoa's first love song. The dissonant sounds that caterwaul around the space resemble the same feeling as being in that mixture of love and loss when that person you’ve come to adore isn't around.
Throughout, there’s an ethereal quality that shimmers beneath Big Dreaming Ants. From time to time it’ll surface, like a morning fog, but for the majority it lies there, holding a gentle glow around the more determined passages. Amongst these comes the seeking a higher understanding - religious or no - and Big Dreaming Ants is Adjoa looking down upon this crazy world of ours through her own eyes in a continued sonic exploration with a subtle jazz inflection of letting the song speak for itself.
Ultimately, Big Dreaming Ants is a culmination of not only a life lived, but a life understood. Adjoa's first major stride forward is one to not be taken lightly; there’s melody to infect, words to direct and most of all, the promise of more road to come.