There’s been much made over the fact that Jess Mills, the daughter of Labour Member of Parliament Tessa Jowell, has embraced the world of dubstep, drum n’ bass and trip-hop with such style. As if it’s unfathomable that anyone associated with the world of politics could possibly have anything in common with a sound synonymous with pirate radio stations and London council estates.
Not that the 30-year-old should have to justify her credentials, but she certainly isn’t the kind of toffee-nosed coattail-rider her family connection may have some people believe.
Indeed, she actually attended the same Camden comprehensive school as urban rapscallions N-Dubz. There Mills became friends with a young Niomi Daley, aka the two-step scene’s breakout star Ms Dynamite, where the two would regularly perform ‘dodgy dance routines’ together and later enjoy partying at various dingy garage raves.
An annual visitor to both Glastonbury and Ibiza, Mills balanced her degree studies in Social Anthropology & Philosophy with her singing ambitions, hooking up with The Nextmen’s Dominic Search on an E.P. titled Seize The Day and later releasing a cover of MGMT’s “Kids” under the guise of His Girl Friday.
But it was after touring with Leftfield on their 2010 series of comeback gigs that Mills’ career began to gather momentum. Signing with Island Records, she appeared on dubstep maestro Breakage’s Top 40 anthem, “Fighting Fire,” supported Emeli Sande on her UK tour and teamed up with Sneaker Pimps’ Liam Howe and Zero 7 for her upcoming first album, Twist Of Fate.
If it can sustain the quality of the material Mills has unveiled so far, with Twist of Fate we could be looking at one of the best debuts of the year. Her forays into club territory have been convincing, from the old-school breakbeat of “Pixelated People” to her tasteful cover version of Roy Gabriel Jr.’s Ayia Napa classic, “Gabriel.”
But it’s when Mills revisits the Bristolian trip-hop sounds of the mid-90s that her breathy seductive tones reveal their true class. “Live What I’d Die For” is a gorgeous fusion of shimmering synths, elasticated guitar hooks and subtle synth-snares, “Silent Space” has the same ethereal and slightly sinister edge that made Portishead’s Dummy so compelling, while new single “For My Sins” is a grandiose orchestral ballad which has the same majestic quality as Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U.”
Alongside the likes of Jessie Ware and Delilah, Jess Mills proves that the UK is currently where it’s at when it comes to sophisticated female-fronted electronic pop.