Multimedia artist E. Jane is mesmerizing. Their album fantasii is sensual, dreamy, and delicious deconstructed R&B that rattles and echoes as though the mechanics of the genre have been misplaced in a Soundcloud file in "Blade Runner 2049." On fantasii, artist E. Jane explores their alter ego as Mhysa, where the sounds of tomorrow are the sounds of yesterday: the fun is in discovering the little nuggets and musical references to TLC and Janet Jackson. Covers of Prince's "When Doves Cry," and Beyonce's "Naughty Girl" are found on tracks "Tonight" and the album's impressive closer, "For Doris Payne." (The album references a infamous jewel thief, Doris Payne, who has a criminal record dating back to 1952.)
fantasii takes on a multi-layered nature, often separating into fragmentations that find themselves whole through Mhysa's eerie lyricism. What could easily seem like a high-school mixtape transforms into a beautiful, poetic entanglement of all the small intimacies women allow and protect from their lovers, friends, and family.
"Strobe" is a cheeky, intergalactic club anthem documenting the camera flashes Myhsa sees when they find their rhythm on the floor. It's a fun, light, self-hype song that adds a needed boost of energy in the album. On a more poetic note, it details the small pleasures Black women find in music and dance.
Followed by "Bb," a reminiscent look at a failed relationship, and the ways we can haunt each other in the present. The song sounds like its buffering until it drops you into a pool of atmospheric longing as Myhsa whisper-sings, "Do you think about me now?" There's a feeling of isolation and estrangement as the production counterattacks with a very claustrophobic breath.
"You Not About That Lyfe" literally sounds like the sonic equivalent of a Myspace layout circa 2008. Cluttered and messy, it repeats its song title like a Pac-Man regurgitating and purging its internal coding.
"Spectrum" speaks to this exchange of loyalty and togetherness, a hallucinogenic ode to "believing" in a greater connection with humans. The song is stunning and ends before you can gather your footing, half ecstatic, half sedated by the ethereal production.
Mhysa's presence on the record is gorgeous. Many tracks follow the echo of their voice as it quietly dissipates into the background — the experience is rejuvenating somehow, like being invited to a slumber party where all the girls can braid hair, speak on their favorite episodes of "Moesha" and "Girlfriends," and sing Beyonce lyrics in front of the mirror without judgment or shame.
The more and more I listen to fantasii, the more I realize it's a futuristic space where Black women are allowed to love and evolve on their own accord, a space for Black women to celebrate their voices and bodies. Often these spaces do not exist in reality, so it seems only fitting that Mhysa would present this fantasy in a cyberspace where women can be tender one moment, and indulgently independent and selfish the next. fantasii is an ode to Black femmes, women and queer narratives rarely depicted in R&B.
Like Doris Payne, whom Mhysa dedicates the closing song to, you are as cunning as the face you wear, whether that be a jewel thief, a mother, a sister, a multimedia artist, or a queer, cyber-diva. In celebrating the ever-changing nature and evolution of a woman, Mhysa reprograms the look, the feel, and freedoms of their world.
Shaun Harris is a poet, freelance writer, and editor published in avant-garde, feminist journals. Lover of warm-toned makeup palettes, psych-rock, and Hilton Als. Her work has allowed her to copyedit and curate content for various poetry organizations in the NYC area.
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