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Klara Lewis, "Too"

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cover imageWhen I heard Klara Lewis’s self-released EP back in 2012, I was deeply impressed with how effectively she shaped her "found sound" collages into song-like structures, but worried that such an abstract and purist approach would be extremely limiting in the long run (it is hard to craft hooks without vocals or instruments, obviously).  As it turns out, my misgivings were largely unfounded, as Lewis has proven to be quite adept indeed at finding inventive and varied ways to exploit her unusual palette.  In fact, she seems to only be getting better and better at unlocking its deeper possibilities rather than backing herself into a corner.  That said, the content of Too probably will not surprise anyone who picked up 2014's Ett, though it may be a little less rhythmically focused.  That is not a detriment though.  In fact, it may even be liberating, as Too definitely feels more rich, otherworldly, and emotionally resonant than its predecessor.  More importantly, it features "Beaming," which is a work of absolute brilliance.

Editions Mego

Over the course of her brief career, Klara Lewis has quietly revealed herself to be a remarkably assured artist working within some rather rarified terrain.  On one hand, her liberal use of non-musical source material makes her very much an experimental music artist, yet she seems genuinely intent on shaping her extremely non-commercial sounds into almost-songs with almost-hooks and almost-grooves.  It is a tough balance to maintain, but it is a welcome departure from the willful insularity and obtuseness that plagues so much experimental music.  I think the most succinct and glib way to describe her niche is "it sounds like someone trying to DJ a party armed only with albums from Touch artists."  Such sounds definitely do not lend themselves to floor-filling fun easily, yet Lewis often achieves a kind of understated, spectral genius and pulsing subterranean throb with her work, feeling like a bleary, kaleidoscopic, and dreamlike afterimage of nightlife rather than the flesh-and-blood actuality.

Lewis maintains remarkably high standards throughout Too's nine pieces, never stagnating, delving into filler, erring into derivative territory, or degenerating into more predictable or straightforward fare.  It is all good.  There are several songs that stand out for various reasons, however.  The first is the rather brief "Twist," which is shaped from reverberant metallic clangs, an erratic rhythm of dynamically active and phase-shifting clicks, shadowy drones, and an obsessively repeating swell that sounds like a single organ chord processed into unrecognizability.  The following "Too" is something of a left-field masterpiece, opening with an unexpectedly slow  and sensuous groove built from backwards drums, ghostly vocal snippets, and an actual bass line.  After dissolving briefly into abstraction, however, the groove reappears in much heavier and explosive fashion, as it sounds like Lewis is now backing a shit-hot free-jazz ensemble of trumpeting elephants.  Later, "Beaming" reaches even more dazzling heights, opening with surprising warm and hissing drones that sound like they are being dreamed by a futuristic machine.  Gradually, some distant field recordings start to seep in, as do some crackling and echoing intercom transmissions.  The overall effect is both absolutely gorgeous and absolutely hallucinatory.  In fact, it may very well be the most perfect piece of music that I will hear this year.  Describing it as lushly melancholic and otherworldly is a good start, but it actually evokes something far more unique than that: it is almost like simultaneously hearing our world and a beautiful alien transmission at the same time in heavenly juxtaposition.

As far as flaws are concerned...well, there just are not any to be found.  At worst, Lewis is content to merely weave a quietly throbbing industrial reverie between her more ambitious pieces, but even those are wonderfully distinctive and satisfying.  I want to say that the genius of Too lies primarily in the lightness of Lewis's touch, but this album is actually a goddamn pile-up of unwaveringly great decisions: the textures, the mood, the song durations, the production…just everything.  The lightness of touch is quite crucial, however, as Too is a gorgeously vaporous and beautiful album shot through with just enough disquieting darkness to make it all feel like a precarious dream.  Such a highwire act could have been easily derailed by something as simple as a clear melody or a too-forceful rhythm, but none of that happens and spell remains both intact and beguiling until the last notes fade.  Klara Lewis is a sonic sorceress and this album is amazing.

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Last Updated on Friday, 08 July 2016 08:00  


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