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RRUCCULLA - SHuSH Music Album Reviews

This unstable amalgam of kazoo squeal, vacuum cleaner whine, and defenestrated drums from the prolific Spanish producer mines a joyous sense of play and surrealistic wonder.

On the surface, the Spanish drummer and electronic musician who calls herself RRUCCULLA isn’t a “mystery producer,” at least not in the ways typically fetishized in dance music. Her real name is Izaskun González. She is 24 years old, a cheerful user of social media, and from Bilbao, a picturesque port city in Spain’s Basque Country. Her alias is a playful variation on the Spanish word for arugula. Onstage, she eschews visuals, encouraging audiences to let her heavily abstracted electronica spark their own imaginations. Still, there she is, front and center, tapping at sampler pads before sitting behind a full drum kit and laying into muscular rhythms in odd time signatures. In a video of her 2016 live debut, she tells the crowd through a voice processor so creepy it could scare even Karin Dreijer, “This is the first time I’ve come out of my cave.”

But once you focus your attention on her sounds, all certainties fall apart. What kind of music is this, and how on earth has she made it? On Bandcamp, she has a rapidly growing catalog of self-released albums. What began as an exploratory take on L.A. beat music—it’s easy to hear the influence of Flying Lotus and Brainfeeder on 2015’s Yesterday is Tomorrow’s wtv and Tactile Emotion—has become increasingly idiosyncratic. Last year’s Istripuak collected improvised drum solos that she subsequently manipulated. SHuSH, which she occasionally spells as the more fittingly onomatopoeic SHo͝oSH, is her most alien excursion yet, a kind of splattercore drum ‘n’ bass riddled with acoustic drums and slathered with elastic synths and pitch-shifting effects. An unstable amalgam of kazoo squeal, vacuum cleaner whine, and defenestrated drum kit, it is chaotic. Trap beats perforate whoopie cushions. Bright tendrils of synth flick across the fizz of bubbling water. Prepared-piano plunks dot concussive breaks and helicopter pulses. High-pitched voices darting across the upper register imply that medically inadvisable quantities of helium have been huffed.

Her titles suggest outlandish images—“Vestido de Párpados” (“Dress of Eyelids”), “Menta Fútil” (“Futile Mint”), “Cicatriz de Chocolate” (“Chocolate Scar”)—that play out in synesthetic eruptions of color, texture, and unpredictable movement. There are echoes of Arca, SOPHIE, Drexciya, Aphex Twin, Raymond Scott, John Zorn, Mr. Bungle—sometimes all in the same song. She says she began working on “Cicatriz de Chocolate,” for instance, in her hotel room while waiting to see the jazz pianist Brad Mehldau; the track itself is inspired by Chinese and Japanese math-rock. Jazz is a major influence. Opener “Intro coma 绿茶” is a showdown between blocky piano chords and her own livewire drumming, while “Té de Cabello Blanco” liberally samples a skronk solo. The whole album was inspired, she says, by a kind of thought experiment: What would free jazz sound like if played by children?

Still, for all that gonzo overload, she knows when to pull back, making SHuSH a more balanced listen than this shock and awe might suggest. That happens across the full record, as when “Menta Fútil” offers a quasi-ambient breather during the jittery first half, and within individual songs. Halfway through the stuttering breaks and atonal topline of “Té de Caballo Blanco,” piano chords and a reassuring bassline take the edge off the agitation. The effect is a bit like watching the video of an explosion in reverse, scraps of shrapnel fitting themselves back together. Most of RRUCCULLA’s songs are short, just a few minutes apiece, which is probably for the best; human consciousness ca. 2018 can take only so many bewildering switchbacks before going numb. That said, the seven-minute “Vestido de Párpados” is one of the album’s most engaging cuts.

If Alfonso Cuarón were filming Children of Men today, the seasick “Miel Oscura” would make a great choice of “zen music” for Michael Caine’s character: RRUCCULLA’s atomized trance stabs and undulating shrieks seem beamed back from a future in which notions of musical pleasure have morphed and mutated so thoroughly, it’s hard to recognize them as such. This may not sound much like free jazz, per se, but her album is an expression of unfettered play at its purest. Children love squishy things: Play-Doh, magic sand, homemade slime. SHuSH translates that tug of war between form and formlessness into exhilarating electronic music.

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