This winter, Kevin McCall of Philly modern rock band Andorra emailed The Key to tip us off about a new artist called Archpalatine who he’d caught at Manayunk’s Grape Room…but his recommendation came with a caveat. “It is definitely an odd one,” he said, and a quick glance over photos of a singer with regal robes and a broadsword confirmed his take long before I listened. And when I hit play? Woah. The first thing that greets you is a staccato harpsichord synth sound and a breathy voice dancing nimbly across notes, stretching the song title out to practically twelve syllables: “Tuh-huh-huh-huh-HUH-huh-hur-urb-u-oo-LENCE.”

My initial “what in the hell is this” gave way to “this is so catchy,” and after a few repeat listens and the song “Turbulence” getting stuck in my head for the afternoon, it’d shifted to “I love this.” In a music world concerned so heavily with “cool,” it’s a bold choice for and artist to be this theatrical, this expressive, this unafraid to be odd in 2019.

Archpalatine is the project of Derek Anthony Wilson, and has been kicking around Philly for the past few years, dealing in a variety of sounds: funk and reggae, pop and classical, hitting operatic Queen heights and brooding Hozier depths, with style and panache. Wilson hosts the Grape Room open mic series, which is where McCall (who works at the venue as well) connected with him, and used it as a proving grounds of sorts for the eclectic ideas that would go one to make up his debut record AmalgamTrue to its title, the album fuses a spectrum of ideas from Archpalatine’s toolkit, and when we were setting up for this week’s Key Studio Session, Wilson spoke equally reverently of David Bowie and Mariah Carey. If I had to distill what he does down to two artists, those would be two good ones to pick.

In this session, Wilson is joined by bandmates Anthony Pompey on backing vocals, Eric Allenson on drums, and Ben High on bass. Along with a stirring performance of “Fire” and a breathless take on “Turbulence,” we hear two as-yet unreleased songs: the super poppy “Dance With You” and the disco funk banger “Hypnotize.” Watch video and listen to the full session below, and see Archpalatine in person this Saturday night when they play The Barbary in Fishtown. Tickets and more information on the show can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar.

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