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oOoOO/Islamiq Grrrls - Faminine Mystique Music Album Reviews

oOoOO/Islamiq Grrrls - Faminine Mystique Music Album Reviews

The witch-house pioneer and a Berlin-based producer join forces on a purposefully “difficult-to-digest” album whose sprawling array of references and styles mimics life online.

There’s a disorienting quality to Faminine Mystique, the purposely “difficult-to-digest” collaboration between bedroom producer-songwriters oOoOO and Islamiq Grrrls, that will be familiar to anyone coping with the modern affliction known as “extremely online.” You know the one: shallow breathing, legs turning red under a hot laptop, two dozen tabs open—yet time seems to stand still, somehow, as long as you keep scrolling. Now that the internet is less a novelty and more a banality, as one “post-internet” thinker described it, we’re all pretty used to tackling endless streams of seemingly unrelated thoughts as we navigate our newsfeeds every day.

For oOoOO and Islamiq Grrrls, all that complexity and incongruity comes built in. Faminine Mystique, which was written and recorded at home in Berlin, is built from a sprawling array of discrete sounds and styles: whispery shoegaze, trap hi-hats, soaring guitar solos, detuned pianos, wobbly Auto-Tune, and even what appears to be a lo-fi tribute to Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Games.” Adding to the density of references, the album’s title—a play on Betty Friedan’s influential text The Feminine Mystique—is meant to refer to “a powerful set of social forces” that allows us access to vast amounts of music while favoring “easy consumption” over experimentation. Fortunately, the results are much more accessible than all of that sounds—nothing a seasoned tab-flipper can’t handle.

The album is the first full-length release in five years from Chris Dexter Greenspan, the New Jersey-raised producer whose early releases on the nascent Tri Angle Records, with their hazy atmospheres and trap-influenced electronic drums, were filed under “witch house.” Returning from a self-imposed break from the industry, Greenspan found an eerily compatible collaborator in Islamiq Grrrls, a singer and musician who grew up in a strict Bosnian Muslim household in small-town Germany (she gives her name only as Asia). They originally linked up to share feedback on their solo albums, but after some back and forth, they realised their separate projects had merged into one. Many of the songs on Faminine Mystique in fact remain solo productions, but it’s remarkable how smoothly they fit together. Side by side at the center of the album, “You Don’t Love Me” and “Y’re Gonna Love Me” share the same trap-inspired flourishes, with purring hi-hats and booming bass laying steady ground for moody synths and, on the latter, a pitch-shifting piano melody that sounds like a 1990s mixtape melting in the heat.

Ideas are stacked precariously, referencing multiple genres and eras at once. On “When Y’re All Alone,” processed vocals are buried under a pastoral synth melody, bursts of breakbeats, and the polite ding of an elevator. On “Feeling Feelings,” Greenspan’s voice wobbles with Auto-Tune over squealing post-punk guitars, perhaps channeling the “retrolicious” and homespun quality of Ariel Pink. Tunings are frequently out of whack, lending the entire record a certain queasiness; in atmosphere, it shares the unsettling nature of Angelo Badalamenti’s synth-and-jazz-heavy “Twin Peaks” themes. Strange samples abound, popping up unexpectedly and disappearing just as soon; they even have the nerve to sample a famously litigious classic-rock band in the breakdown of “Be on Through.”

Lyrically, it’s far less daring. Her words are direct and heartsick—“baby” and “love” appear repeatedly—while his are more opaque, but their poppy simplicity at least stands in relief from the weirdness elsewhere. The songs don’t stick out so much individually, but the overall effect is engrossing; soon enough you’re sucked into their disorienting, time-flattened grooves. Hallucinatory and inward-gazing, Faminine Mystique offers a distinctly post-internet strain of eclecticism.

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