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Cashmere Cat - Princess Catgirl Music Album Reviews

The Norwegian producer invents a Vocaloid-inspired feline character and retreats from the spotlit pop of his last album, returning to the introspective hush of his earlier work.
After all these years, Cashmere Cat is still shy. The musician born Magnus August Høiberg has nearly a decade of prismatic productions under his belt, which has led to appearances on the big stages at EDM festivals, collaborations with childhood heroes, and studio time with the biggest pop stars in the world. On some level, Høiberg has had to adjust to the practicalities that this success requires. He once wouldn’t even do in-person interviews, but a few years ago he finally decided to open up about his life story in a music video. One would imagine he’s no longer hiding in a bathroom, as a friend of his once described, when DJ Khaled unexpectedly turns up at the studio.

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!!! - Wallop Music Album Reviews

The New York party monsters change course, embracing the sounds of the ’90s and getting in touch with their feelings.

In Lizzy Goodman’s 2017 oral history Meet Me in the Bathroom: Rebirth and Rock and Roll in New York City 2001-2011, Nic Offer, who’s spent the 21st century hosting party monsters !!! across eight albums and many more singles, talks about looking back. “Each decade pays for the sins of the last,” he says. He’s talking about the way the grunge and rave of the 1990s sought to counter the stadium rock and dance pop of the 1980s with what he called “a new sort of slickness,” a kind of trashy authenticity.


Over the years !!! have countered the po-faced myopia of the early 2000s with their own trashy authenticity. They slapped a dad-joke patch on mom-jeans funk to critique the police state with “Me and Giuliani Down by the School Yard (A True Story).” They’ve again and again ordered up the ugliest sleeves that their label, hero-to-all-your-designer-friends Warp, has ever approved. They turned one of the Magnetic Fields’ best songs, a conflicted invocation of MDMA as a psychic and physiological bulwark against homophobic violence, into affable coffee-shop disco, then turned Stereolab’s Marxist-feminist French disko into Brooklyn boys’ noise with a live cover band, Stereolad.

They’ve done it all with an accomplished, if ironic, panache. But Wallop begins with a great whooshing sound, like a sort of time travel, and indeed this solid collection is a change of course: a serious embrace of the sounds of the ’90s, an attempt to come to grips with that “new sort of slickness.” Opener “Let It Change U” is a cocky hulk that could’ve waddled onto an early Chemical Brothers or mid-career Beastie Boys album; the titular it is, of course, rhythm. The next track, “Couldn’t Have Known,” cuts acoustic guitars and stuttering breaks into a nod to Akufen’s 2002 barnstormer “Deck the House,” one of the first tracks of the new millennium that, with its kaleidoscopic cut-up of country licks, R&B runs, and a million other bits of cultural detritus, really sounded like the future.

Bookends in place, the rest of Wallop fills in the ’90s timeline. “Off the Grid” gathers Liars’ Angus Andrew and longtime !!! co-vocalist Meah Pace for a roiling bit of nihilism. “Get up, it’s here/You’ve got to start to assume/The end is near/And not a moment too soon,” they chant. It’s like Primal Scream covering “1999” in 1999. Like a few other tracks, it dissolves into a dubbed coda (“In the Grid”) that’s just long enough to make you wonder what a No Protection or Echo Dek-style version might achieve, yet not long enough to demonstrate it. But then in crashes “Serbia Drums,” built off a riff drummer Chris Egan recorded while on tour; with its crunchy guitars and DX-7 style bell melodies, it sounds about as dangerous as the dominatrix number in Showgirls. It doesn’t suck.

None of Wallop sucks, really, although “Rhythm of the Gravity” duckwalks up to cock-rock with an ostentatious guitar solo and breakbeats that are probably fun live but flatfooted on record. “$50 Million” and “My Fault” are selfies of a funky schmuck who doesn’t deserve these limber party jams but earns them like a salary anyway; the latter boasts a particularly lovely, fluttering synth sound with the exact timbre of empathy. “UR Paranoid” is hyper-tense until detonation and even tenser afterward, as effects drip down the walls of a good house beat and gaggles of vocals chase each other, crying out, “I’m not the one who’s paranoid!”

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But of course the ’90s were a decade very much in its feelings, and the best parts of Wallop are its most emotional. “Domino” is among the prettiest and most intelligent songs !!! have ever recorded; its delicate investigation of urban planning avoids “Me & Giuliani”’s smugness, building a multi-level argument mirrored by a multilayered sound in debt to IDM. “Slow Motion” has an undertow of a drum loop and a chorus of Offers ruminating on regret while Uzor talks herself into trouble. “Everyone’s a total fucking idiot sometimes, right? Right?” she asks, while icy-hot melodies rise and fall. “When I look back on this moment/Think about hindsight/What am I going to say I was a total fucking idiot about then?” The loop just loops until it loses its will to rise out of a bed of indiscernible chatter.

Nostalgia is a killer, but luckily penultimate track “This Is the Door” is one inflatable bootie balloon short of a Lizzo anthem, and a hell of a showcase for Meah Pace. “Maybe you think that I don’t notice/But I do/So I thought I should show this to you,” she sings, her voice casual as if escorting you around her gracious living room while tasteful (and, yes, slick) adult-contemporary pop plays on the stereo. “This is the door.” And you’re out. Horns arrive to celebrate, Pace repeats her breakup line with increasing force to make sure you heard it, and in a few minutes the track has burned better than sage in clearing out the sins of the past. Onward.


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