Eartheater: IRISIRI (LP, PAN, December 2018)

Ooh, I’d forgotten how great this is. I streamed this a bunch when it came out in… was it July? I pre-ordered the vinyl, which I think was due to come out in September, and then I gradually forgot about it as the physical release date got pushed back. So this turning up was a lovely little Christmas present.

This is one to file under “really frigging hard to categorize”. Metadata-wise I’ve landed on avant pop, but I’m not sure that’s really a genre. Alexandra Drewchin mixes the synths up with everything from harps (played by Marilu Donovan) to strings to occasional drum machines and guitars, and her vocals range between proper singing, moaning, yelping, whispering, computer-generated loops, samples, and all sorts besides. Stylistically, it can flip in a moment from prettily, floatily melodic to twitchily abstract and back, or even drop into thumpingly industrial, and sound perfectly natural the whole time. And it does all of this in a way that seems perfectly natural. The lyrics, which are more fragments than verse-chorus-verse, have a spikily feminist theme running through them (memorable refrains include “inhale baby pink, exhale red” and “computer! / this body is a chemistry mystery / these tits are just a side-effect / you can’t compute her / you can’t compute her / you don’t decide for my chemical”) and are sometimes disconcertingly strange (“there’s so much… stuff coming out of my skirt”). And although they seem scattergun on first listen, somehow they add up to a coherent whole (a sample of what sounds like a child chanting “okay, go! nobody’s looking, nobody’s looking!”, which would seem random by itself, gains layers of meaning from its context) and rise above sloganeering.

Building these disparate and not always easy elements into a coherent whole without seeming forced is a very rare talent, and Drewchin does it absolutely brilliantly. This is a record that I’m sure I’ll be coming back to over and over again for a long time.

I bought this from Boomkat. They call it Electronic.

Katie Gately: Color (LP, Tri Angle, October 2016)

Wow, how brilliantly bonkers is this??? Vocally, Gately ranges from chirpy pop to melodramatic cabaret and incorporates eccentric yelps and shifts of tone and basically comes over like a Kate Bush for the attention-deficit generation. Musically, it’s equally full-on: synth-heavy, densely-layered, chaotic, over-the-top, and wickedly inventive. She never misses an opportunity for an extra flourish or parp or clang, and if she can squeeze a mariachi-style trumpet or a plinky little piano line in as well then all the better. To accuse this record of overshooting in its “chronic maximalism”, as the normally sound Resident Advisor did, seems to be missing the point: it’s like ordering an orangeade and then complaining it’s too orangey. I suspect that Gately would take that as a compliment. The key thing for me is that, for all that, it never feels random: every additional element seems to add rather than subtract, which is a bloody hard thing to pull off. Listening to this feels a little bit like riding an out-of-control fairground ride while you’re off-your-face drunk (probably): if you try to resist it or make sense of what’s happening to you, it’s probably going to be pretty unpleasant, but if you let yourself go, it’s a delirious thrill.

I bought this from Boomkat. They call it Electronic.