Howard Ivans is not only the new orchestrated-dance project from Ivan Howard of The Rosebuds; it’s also a collaboration with Richmond, Va.,’s Matthew E. White and his Spacebomb Orchestra, experts in big pop majesty. One song—the nervous, full-stop funk of “Red Face Boy”—hit the Internet last week (stream it below). When it’s released through White’s Spacebomb imprint as a 7-inch single November 19th, it will be backed with the waltzing slow jam of “Pillows.”
For Howard, these songs speak to his desire “to just get out of that mindset of indie rock.” Indeed, The Howard Ivans comes a little under a year after The Rosebuds’ own foray into atmospheric R&B with Love Deluxe, their take on Sade’s 1992 classic. It also dovetails well with Howard’s tenure fronting soft rockers Gayngs.
At one point, Howard planned to turn this project into a musical— “Yep, complete with dance routines and all”—or what he dubs an “electronic dance project.” Half-joking, he adds that he wrote these two songs for “an imagined James Ingram comeback,” referencing the ’80s quiet storm king and Quincy Jones collaborator. As Howard puts it, several “big voices with soul and dance music behind them” ultimately influenced the new project—Sade, Percy Sledge, Robert Palmer.
These Howard Ivans songs function like an-old school single: The ear-grabber takes the A-side, while something a bit more restrained and rewarding upon multiple listens lands on the B-side. “Red Face Boy” is stumbling disco, with half-drunk horns, strings that wobble and then swing into focus, and hard-hitting drums that could birth their own breakbeats. The song invokes the funk-punk of Rick James, the fevered-but-controlled partying of Miami Sound Machine, and even the bedroom dance stuff of Toro y Moi. “Pillows” is a tug of war between sunny Bacharach pop orchestration and a bed of horns. It could’ve been slipped right into Love Deluxe.