Maya Jane Coles' rise through the ranks of UK house was almost meteoric, and it's been hard not to root for her the whole way. Her slinky and low-slung productions have definite commercial viability, but there's also an unusual sense of space in her music. That's not even mentioning her knack for melody, something that's particularly evident when she sings. Historically, she's been willing to turn down the tempo in favour of a tune ("Senseless"), and on her debut album the dance floor seems like the least of her concerns. But instead of exploring the possibilities of her own voice, Comfort shows Coles crafting a chart-baiting, guest-heavy record.
That decision is a bit puzzling. If you're going to have guest artists, they should stand out. On Comfort, they tend to trample all over Coles' delicate productions. To her credit, the attempts at full-fledged songs are mostly decent, and some of the performances are stellar—Kim Ann Foxman and Miss Kittin both fit in just fine. Nadine Shah and Thomas Knights, on the other hand, make cheesy attempts at straightforward pop songs that crumple under their own weight. These moments ditch house in favour of something resembling trip-hop, not least on a spellbinding duet with Tricky, one of the few moments where this slow-burning formula feels convincing.
Even when the songs step over to the wrong side of cheesy, the production work saves them. Coles has a way of making her tracks sound massive and intimate at the same time, using reverb in a way that evokes both the expanse of an arena and the introspection of a bedroom. It's how a tune like "Dreamer" can be a careful whisper and a sensual club jam all at once. Comfort has enough of these moments to remind us of her casual brilliance, but not enough to make it the complete knockout it could be. For a record released on a label called I Am Me, there's just not quite enough Maya Jane Coles here.