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Charlotte Adigéry - Zandoli EP Music Album Reviews

The Belgian-Caribbean musician’s breakout EP, co-produced by Soulwax, channels Guadeloupean influences into striking, playful electro pop with a sly sense of humor.

The Belgium-based French-Caribbean musician Charlotte Adigéry often records using the moniker WWWater, stripping conventional song structures for parts to form a dizzying, minimalist take on electropop. Anchored by her soft, mutable voice, Adigéry’s music can assume blue shades one moment and fiery passion the next, whether delivered in English or her native French. On Zandoli, Adigéry’s second EP under her given name, she takes the same vitalizing qualities of those early, exploratory song sketches as WWWater and buffs them into high gloss. Co-produced with perennial indie-dance duo Soulwax and shot through with a global sensibility, Zandoli is an energizing and uncompromising EP that draws on electronica, dance music, and pop while existing entirely within its own frisky, curious world.

Adigéry said last year that the opening “Paténipat,” the EP’s first single, is a rhythmic call to arms for finding strength in despair, a way to “throw off all the ballast, all the stuff that in the end don’t matter.” The charging backdrop reflects that essence: At a winding and wiry six minutes, the track is a glowering, house-infused exercise in tension control. The chorus, derived from the Caribbean mnemonic “zandoli pa té ni pat” (“the gecko didn’t have any legs”), is crafted to evoke the call-and-response style of the Guadeloupean gwo ka music of Adigéry’s ancestors. The result is equal parts jarring and captivating in its curves and stop-and-start composition, with Adigéry’s coolly collected deadpan vocals keeping listeners both mentally transported and physically moving.

Soulwax’s production throughout Zandoli is in lockstep with the quirks and strengths of Adigéry’s voice, recalling the Belgian producers’ remix work pulling apart songs by Charlotte Gainsbourg and Warpaint. The pop-minded “High Lights” particularly fits the Soulwax mold: It’s a danceable, playful treatise on hair care and loving wigs that doubles as an artful indictment of those who would shame Adigéry for it. Her voice floats along in a dulcet tone until the chorus, in which she lets loose in plain, joyous terms, like she’s arrived at her own surprise birthday party: “I know I shouldn’t do it but/I love synthetic wigs a lot!”

Elsewhere, Zandoli engages with a full spectrum of sexual activities and attitudes. “Cursed and Cussing” explores kink over trip-hop breakbeats: “Squeaking leather/Skin on skin/Latex singing songs of sin,” she sings in a terse spoken-word delivery. Adigéry’s liquid, singsong affectations contradict the song’s masochistic core: “God punishes/I beg for more.” “B B C,” meanwhile, uses a Goldfrapp-indebted synth line and layered chants in service of barbed commentary on racial fetishism and sex tourism. “Takes two to tango/Fetish untangled/Libido gigolo,” she intones over a pattering drum machine: “If you’re good, I’ll take you home.” The song captures the perspective of both jane and gigolo in an unnerving power play that Adigéry pulls off with menacing poise.

A diverse spread of influences runs through Zandoli’s club-minded sphere: the Knife’s razor-sharp precision and mathy electronica; Neneh Cherry’s convention-smashing electro; Santigold’s forward-thinking, global pop. (In an example of perfect synergy, Cherry tapped Adigéry for an opening slot on her tour this year.) But Adigéry processes the music of her inspirations, collaborators, and ancestors on Zandoli from a unique point of view, delivered in a hypnotizing voice that can’t and won’t be easily shaken.

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