How do you anchor yourself when occupying multiple geographic identities at once?
For Edwin Raphael, the Dubai-raised, Montreal-based songwriter, it requires an intentional and intensive form of world-building. By developing an unmistakable style of folk that merges Eastern scales with the Western pop canon, Raphael reimagines his music as an exploratory tool that allows him to construct an interior and sacred home to retreat into.
Growing up in Dubai, as the son of parents who immigrated from the city of Cochin in India’s coastal Kerala state, Raphael studied classical guitar before deciding on the keys. As he developed an affinity for John Mayer and Ben Howard, he felt at odds with Dubai’s distinct sense of “placelessness” — and the bewildering feeling of being immersed in a culture where everyone claimed an alternate homeland. It wasn’t until he moved to Montreal to pursue a business degree that he felt a sense of stability, and became deeply entangled with the city’s indie bedroom pop scene.
His debut EP Ocean Walk (2015) paired stirring, melancholic instrumentals with a fierce self-reckoning. It would set the stage for a string of releases that would dive deeper into the psyche; like confronting the aftershocks following a significant heartbreak, or relearning your emotional baseline as you mature. Subsequent releases, Cold Nights (2017), his acclaimed debut Will You Think of Me Later? (2019), and its follow up Staring at Ceilings (2021), reveal an artist devoted to sharpening his ability to translate his experiences into ubiquitous statements, and saw him open for Hollow Coves, JP Saxe, Noah Kahan, Palace.
Where his past projects found inspiration in the metaphorical potential of water, his forthcoming album Warm Terracotta walks deeper into the island after standing on the shore. On Edwin Raphael’s most intimate and ambitious project to date, he grapples with the realization of being a foreigner everywhere; of longing to know your ancestral roots, while also honouring the home you’ve built for yourself. Both spacious and pulsating, the album is inspired by Indian classical music, experimental psychedelic folk, and spacey 80s pop; at times, conjuring the lower-jaw tingle of grass between your toes, or the sun-soaked splendor of late afternoon ragas. In Raphael’s own words, the album is an antidote: “one that swallows you into forgetting your present troubles, while also painting a world you can escape into — and keep coming back to.”
Melissa Vincent (December 2021)
“'Sea of Things' feels primal, mimicking the ocean with cyclical, crashing movements, patiently building itself up and washing itself back out." - FLAUNT
"Calming ambience and angelic vocals." - Lyrical Lemonade
"The track seemingly blooms from a spacious and rustic folk sound into something far more lavish." - Under The Radar
"Raphael indulges by opening up that affecting guitar-vocal pairing to a lush bridge with added horn, guitar and drums." - CBC Music
"Tranquil melodies flow over electronic and acoustic instrumentation." - American Songwriter
"Raphael's languid instrumentals are all too easy to melt into." - Exclaim!
"Chill pop with a touch of folk." - EARMILK