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Four Tet - Live at Alexandra Palace London, 8th and 9th May 2019 Music Album Reviews

Kieran Hebden’s new live album reminds us that he is a stellar performer, not just a producer.
The British producer Kieran Hebden has one of the most distinctive signatures in electronic music. First, a gravelly drum machine; then, some jewel-toned synth pads; and, finally, a strip of harp or chimes or wordless cooing, unspooling like wrinkled ribbon.

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Lolina - Who is experimental music? Music Album Reviews


Looping and manipulating voices into strange, lumbering beatbox fugues, Inga Copeland undercuts expectation at every turn.

“Who is experimental music?” is not an obvious question; the syntax doesn’t quite scan. But then, Inga Copeland (formerly one half of lo-fi weirdo-pop duo Hype Williams, alongside Dean Blunt) has never been much interested in taking the obvious route. And her self-released album Who is experimental music? is as opaque as we have come to expect from the UK musician—even if it does seem to come embedded with elementary questions that might guide its reception. I’m thinking in particular of the second track, “Good or bad,” which attaches that binary value judgment to a dry swirl of manipulated voice that stops and starts, gallops and stutters, in an off-kilter rhythm whose structure is largely elusive. Copeland has previously shown that she knows her way around a song. The Lolina project, though, has always had more to do with the song’s dissolution: bare-bones, stretched-out synth-and-vocal drafts that bear half-cooked traces of club tropes.

On Who is experimental music, the song dissolves altogether. Instead, we’re presented with a succession of vocal exercises—or, rather, manipulations of recorded voice that dance at the fringes of music, or of the voice’s capacity for human connectivity. It doesn’t always take up much space on her recordings, but Lolina’s voice is one of the coolest and most distinctive in this particular corner of experimental electronic music; she half-sings in low tones, often sounding a little passive, like her melodies have been simplified to conserve energy. Her vocals have provided a way to feel close to her music, which is otherwise reasonably abrasive. It’s funny, then, that this set of recordings is, as far as I can tell, a cappella—pure voice—yet for the most part abstracted to the point of unrecognizability: converted into pure, if ramshackle, rhythm.

First, though, there’s space. “Let Go” begins with Copeland intoning that phrase in increasingly echoey iterations separated, at first, by over 10 seconds of silence. The quiet is filled by a looped track of frenetic beatboxing; the sung vocals come unspooled, dissolving into a trail of digital refuse while the rhythm layers and splits in growing chaos. A two-note hint of bass and a lightly melodic “mm-mm-mm” drift the track somewhere a bit clubby, but in its final minutes it rockets back out into less comprehensible territory.

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A trio of tracks—“Skipping,” “Glitching,” “Strobing”—plays with their titular effects, warping that beatbox-like vocal line so that it falters and folds in on itself. There are skeletons of beats, with tempos that slow and pick up at will. The title track scrambles a man’s voice over an unidentifiable groove, creating a bouncing tinny soundscape painted over with masculine vocals that glitch to point of sounding like scat singing. It stops mid-scramble, as if someone’s pulled the plug on the entire project.

Questioning what exactly Lolina means by all of this is, by now, well-trodden territory—simply put, she has weird impulses when it comes to sound, and she doesn’t force upon her listeners the conceptual mechanisms that might motivate her choices. If there’s a formal framework here, it’s inelegantly processing the voice until it’s stripped of its affective and authorial capacities, and that loss begets discomfort for the listener. The good/bad binary winked at on the second track doesn’t do us much good. What’s exciting about Lolina’s approach to experimental music is its casualness, not to mention its sense of humor—its blithe indifference to creating value.


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