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Klein - cc EP Music Album Reviews

Klein - cc EP Music Album Reviews

After last year’s Tommy EP, the South London electronic musician turns her abstracted sound collages to more pointedly cathartic ends: complex music that brims with conflicting emotions.

The South London electronic musician Klein is clearly comfortable playing roles. Her 2016 EP Lagata was written from the perspective of “a Nigerian ruler from a fictional film,” while in February she wrote, directed, and scored a “fantasy musical” at London’s ICA. cc, Klein’s third EP, sees her step away from this role-playing in favor of something more personal: Klein calls cc a “come-of-age record, with the classic teenage spirals,” that was “written about myself to myself.” What emerges is a hugely poignant work that explores the emotional depths of life, death, and growing up.

Whereas last year’s Tommy EP for Hyperdub was thick with bewildering abstraction, cc often feels like one of the saddest records you will hear, refracting the raw sound of sorrow through digital production. The harrowing “apologise” samples Heather Donahue’s snot-flecked apology monologue from The Blair Witch Project, her jerky, tear-laden breath forming a scratchy rhythmic loop that sits under torturous repetitions of Donahue’s mea culpa and builds to a howling climax of gasps and machine rhythms. Like the iconic scene from which the sample is taken, the effect is devastating, an overspill of unadulterated emotion that transcends its origins as a piece of consumable culture.

This anguish is prolonged by “last chance,” which follows. Like many of the songs on Tommy, “last chance” is based on a brilliant vocal riff, the kind of catchy melodic motif you could imagine adorning a mainstream pop hit. But here Klein focuses in on the desperation with laser intensity, as the riff’s refrain of “I can’t take it” is chopped, degraded, and pitched-shifted into a ghoulish chorus that bobs up and down in the mix like an abandoned boat at sea. The production here is similar to Tommy, but where that record was thick as tar, cc ’s individual sounds are largely distinguishable, even within the music’s soupy swirl.

Sad as those these two songs might be, cc is nothing so straightforward as a record of misery. Moments of emotional ambiguity are scattered throughout the EP’s seven tracks, many of them linked to the idea of childhood. Opener “collect” features the American artist/poet Diamond Stingily relating memories from her family over eerie synth chords and harp trills. This creates a pungently bittersweet atmosphere, as tales of her brother at three years old give way to reflections on growing pains and death. “stop” even skirts the edge of happiness, marrying what sounds like children cheering to wonky drum rhythms that nod to house and rock music, a rare appearance for conventional percussion sounds on this EP.

Meanwhile, “explay” is not so much downhearted as furiously despondent. In what might be cc’s most unusual moment, the song combines a fairly conventional rap cadence, with lyrics that explore rage and despair (“All the bitches want to talk to me yeah...Fuck this guy, I don't give a damn, I just want my mum”) delivered over a musical backing that resembles a demented fairground carousel. The two elements operate in largely unrelated musical worlds, bound together by Klein’s brilliant musical obstinacy.

This combination may sound abstruse and unwelcoming on paper, but Klein delivers the last line with a laugh that sums up the record's endearing emotional complexity. cc is a brilliant work of labyrinthine twists and turns—of production trickery, degraded melody, and abstraction. But it is one where emotion always trumps musical craft. There is sadness here, but it is woven into complex parcels of emotions, where melancholy gives way to anger, which gives way to humor and joy. That makes cc not just personal, but also overwhelmingly human.

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