HONNE’s origin story is one of love at first sight. Well, not really, but kind of. Meeting on their first day of university, Andy Clutterbuck and James Hatcher quickly realised that they were kindred spirits musically speaking, and as day faded to night, the pair engaged in their first musical collaboration. Tweak a few details, and relocate the setting from South-West England to the US, and you have yourself a cookie-cutter Hollywood romance story. Drawing inspiration from a mid-night viewing of Lost In Translation, and time spent by Clutterbuck in Japan, the duo later decided on adopting the Japanese word honne – meaning one’s true feeling and desires, or true intentions – as the name for their collaboration.
Since 2014 HONNE have released four EPs, introducing the world to their distinctive – yet familiar feeling – electro-soul sound, and it is sonic territory the pair continue to plumb with their debut album, Warm On A Cold Night. This sonic continuity is related to the fact that four of the album’s tracks – including the titular song – have been released on the aforementioned EPs, however it also seems to signal that the pair are creatively spinning their wheels. There is no doubting that Warm On A Cold Night is well produced, displaying a smoothness that cannot be denigrated as ‘slick’, but by the time the twelve tracks have run their course there really hasn’t been anything to hook the listener and reel them back in.
A fake radio introduction opens the eponymous Warm On A Cold Night, which ostensibly exists to set the mood but the lo-fi filter overlayed on All In The Value, and vinyl record hiss employed later on the album, would seem to indicate that additional ‘warmth’ is its true purpose – an odd decision given Clutterbuck’s vocal delivery and the inherent warmth in the funk-infused-soul that forms the backbone of HONNE’s sound. Izzy Bizu lends her vocals to Someone That Loves You, which manages to push the track beyond being the standard electro-pop fair that it nearly is, and she proves to be the ideal complement to Clutterbuck. One At A Time Please is infectiously groovy, working well with the lounge act vibe imparted by the song’s opening.
Warm On A Cold Night is hard to find fault with – Clutterbuck’s mumbling on All In The Value being one of the few instances of something being explicitly subpar – yet it also doesn’t sear itself into the listener’s consciousness. As background music it goes above and beyond expectations, and it will suit those seeking to create a warm, relaxed, listening environment, but those wanting something with more immediacy will need to look elsewhere.