When it comes to Klein, the first listen is a hard listen. A frenetic medley of cut-up of keys, field recordings, live vocals and other internet ephemera, the London-based producer has become known for going deep into the mire of misshapen experimental noise music that’s haunted by a pop education.
Tommy, out via Hyperdub on September 29, will be Klein’s first release on a label, its unsteady assemblage of eight acutely emotional mishaps clocking in at just under 25-minutes. A fifth of that is devoted to a studio conversation-come-woozy sleepwalk through looping, discordant clamour and vocal harmonies in the heavily-credited “Prologue ft atl, jacob samuel, thisisDA, Pure water, eric sings.”
Half-finished and a work in progress, the tracks of Tommy feel cobbled together from a desktop folder with file names that sound like stand-ins — “Runs Reprise,” “Cry Theme,” “B2k.” These are heavily sampled, layered and glitch-y songs for a track listing that reads like an incomplete script, which is also out of order. “Act One w embaci + jacob Samuel” comes first, and its “Prologue…” appears five songs later. Klein opens the latter track with a half-joking a capella of 90s RnB icon Toni Braxton’s “Unbreak My Heart” before leaning into a mention of Mariah Carey, while other banter comes in and out of reach of the microphone. It repeats and replays underneath blown out and manipulated samples. The whole thing looks and sounds like chaos and, yet, it’s somehow oddly tranquilizing.
An only child of the mid-90s with an arte povera aesthetic, Klein’s complex and highly intuitive approach to music and soundscaping had already been infecting the London electronic scene – often live, but also on YouTube – for a couple of years before 2016’s Only album, and her Lagata EP especially, made an impact on the press circuit via Bandcamp. Before that she’d been the younger charge of the older South London post-grime scene of the likes of Kwes and Raisa K, performing on bills with Micachu, while producing, then deleting a vast catalogue under a different name. For a brief time after that she went by Yung Klein before coming into her own as just Klein.
Those pieces’ lyrics were more recognisably tuneful – amidst all the atonal drops in pitch and irregular rhythms – while on Tommy the words are almost completely incomprehensible. What’s not been swept up into this tumult of millennial musique concrete, though, is the residue of profound emotional resonance. The jerky, arrhythmic cutups of myriad groans, gasps and grunts in “Farewell Sorry” are made all the more affecting for the track’s understated title. “Cry Theme” is a trimmed recording of a piano that stumbles alongside the repetitious loop of a haphazardly clipped, pitched and distorted sound byte of the phrase, “I never cry.” It spirals out of control, while reminding the listener that its speaker is fooling no one. Fragmented and cacophonous, it’s hard to maintain focus on which track is which in Tommy, its discordant but never violent noise inducing a peculiar sense calm.**
Upcoming Tour Dates
11/10/17 Krakow, PL, Unsound Festival
13/10/17 Newcastle, Tusk Festival
18/10/17 London, Village Underground
21/10/17 Bristol, Simple Things Festival
10/11/17 Utrecht, NL Le Guess Who