What kind of movies would R&B singer-songwriter Chaquis Maliq's music go with? "Time" would fit in with a romantic arthouse film; "Remain Me" could be at home in an indie drama's montage sequence; "Patience" is prime contemplative coming-of-age fodder — the list goes on. Maliq often thinks about her music in relation to the silver screen. "My goal is to actually score films, so that's the No. 1 inspiration," she says. Listeners have been given Maliq's take on soul and alternative R&B for years, but now they can treat themselves to her interpretation of film soundtracks with her recent release, Default Noises.
All it takes to listen through Chaquis Maliq's newest album is 12 minutes. Standing at nine songs, each roughly a minute and a half, the album serves as a demonstration of Maliq's film scoring abilities. But, compared to many demos, there's a greater calculation to this sprint of a music release, as Maliq's account of Default Noises reveals. "I actually auditioned for an independent sci-fi film, and they loved my audition, but I wasn't selected for the role," says Maliq. "So, I decided to pitch myself in response, since I couldn't play the role. I was like, 'Well, let me see if they'll bite for me scoring the film." And bite, they did.
The film, titled Infrangible, is a product of Jamall Rawlingson's production company Vacant Space Films. "I fell for her original sounds," says Rawlinson. "Her music has a way of commanding your attention which is vital for a film that uses so much of my actors physical acting skills versus verbal."
The producers of the short film dug Maliq's music enough to take her songs "Some Stories" and "Tired of Being," before offering her a deal to provide more music once the film has finished shooting. "Eventually, I'll be actually screening the film and creating the score that way," she says. Soon after receiving this deal of Vacant Space Films, Maliq released Default Noises (which "Some Stories" appears on) to save herself from any potential copyright issues in the future.
The album takes a slightly different approach to songwriting. Instead of focusing on a breakup or a hot topic political issue, Maliq imagined ideas for movie scenes and wrote songs for them. "That's what I wanted to do: score films," she says. "When I'm making [songs], I visualize scenes. I didn't actually watch any scenes to create those." Given that fact, Default Noises is a project of pure imagination.
It's possible to listen to songs from the album and author scenes for them. Images of a dystopian dance floor form when listening to the syncopated synths of "Something Better" and junkie robots dropping acid are the first thing that hits the brain when "Think She Grown" comes on the speaker. Of course, Maliq has her own interpretation of each song. "I've also wanted to make music for video games, and with 'Take Me,' it sounds like an action film, like a fighting scene," says Maliq. "I've actually had feedback from some other people that said, 'This sounds like I'm watching fights on a video game.'"
But, using visuals and film to make music is nothing new for the singer-songwriter. "Even my very first full-length album, Veracity, back in 2009, you can hear a lot of '80s influences on it," says Maliq. "I love Eddie Murphy cop movies, so you kinda can hear it."
Default Noises is a sonic departure from Maliq's previous albums. The alt-R&B waves, precise acoustic-guitar rhythms, and adroit vocals of Resilience Eludes Death (2016) are gone in favor of MIDI samples and drum machines. "Everything is virtually programmed," she says. "It doesn't sound like anything else I've put out." Much of the music was amassed over the years and collected dust in Maliq's list of unreleased songs. "It took a little more time for me to release because I kind of just had them in my back catalogue and not knowing if I would ever use them or not," she say. "It was kind of like, 'People won't know what else you do if you don't put it out.'"
In the future, Maliq wants to continue to pursue her love of film by adding more scores to movies, and eventually creating her own. But, she doesn't want to pressure the creative process. "I'm not a forceful writer," Maliq says. "If it doesn't come, I don't create. If it comes, I create." She adds that, "As long as I keep being creative," more soundtracks will pop up.