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 poveraaesthetic, 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.
Lagata confirmed the Lewisham artist’s peculiar position at the intersection of an unabashed love for pop, soul and RnB, as well as a profound respect for the influence of performers like gospel’s Kim Burrell and even opera’s Pavarotti. Melodrama played a major role in the music, as well as the evocative emotional power of a simple key change in what was a fairly impressive display of vocal range. Klein’s by now signature guttural moans (most recently lent to a couple of tracks on Laurel Halo’s Dust EP) met the more melodic elements of an easy alto melisma in songs like “lover” and “with u.”
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.**
Curlis an events-organizer focused on programming innovative cross-disciplinary performance, art and music, with the goal of making interdisciplinary art accessible to a wider audience by engaging live music. It is run by producer Coby Sey and emcee and performer Brother May. They have been putting on similar events at The Yard in Hackney Wick and Rye Wax in Peckham since 2016.
What happens to the present when we’re stuck in the future? AQNB editor Jean Kay, and Video in Common (ViC) presented the ‘Staying Present’ screening, reading and discussion at Berlin’s Vierte Welt, as part of the Creamcake-organised 3hd Festival, on Wednesday October 12.
In referring to the title of this year’s festival topic ‘There is nothing left but the future?’ AQNB x ViC focussed on the question mark, interrogating what is actually meant by ‘the future’ and whether the past has a role in determining it. The programme presented artists, musicians and ideas drawing on convention and tradition to comment on the contemporary condition by integrating old aesthetics, formats, media, practices and logics into producing new work.
‘Act I, Scene II’ of Jaakko Pallasvuo‘s The Hunchback of South Bermondsey sound piece — originally produced for quarterly podcast Status Effect— opened the event with a glimpse into a near neofeudal future. Armed with an “iPod Shuffle, your Master’s degree, the keys to your apartment”, a character called Lancelot navigated a play and a scene full of “wizadry, alchemy, allurement, sorcery”, while London-based producer Klein talked about the influence of Gospel music and the internet on her visceral vocal ambient project in an AQNB x ViC editorial video production.
Meanwhile, Gary Fembot and Eastercombined and conflated contemporary issues and ideas with traditionally transgressive queer-punk aesthetics and outdated filming techniques in excerpts of their respective ‘Scream of the Mandrake’ and Sadness is an Evil Gas Inside of Me videos. Maxwell Sterlinglaid fielded footage of Los Angeles’ surreal landscapes over his ‘Hollywood Medieval’ music production, while Institute for New Feeling looked into the oracle of the online in a custom massage chair and screen experience in ‘seek: a self-fulfilling prophesy’. Finally, writer, artist and witch Martha Windahlof MW Tarotscopesdrew up an astrological chart prediction and joined the Berlin event from her base in Los Angeles to predict the future of Europe, live and via Skype.
‘Staying Present’ follows a series of previous events organised by AQNB and video production partner ViC in Berlin, London, and Los Angeles –all key cultural centres in the collaboration’s network. Titled ‘The Future Is Here, It’s Just Not Evenly Distributed’, ‘At the Backend’ and ‘Accessing Economies: Engagement & Withdrawal’ together these programmes interrogated the systems and infrastructures embedded in networked communication, and how this affects distribution, flows of information and power, as well as language, community-building, identity formation and assimilation.
Below is the full programme of video, audio and stills of the works presented in their running order:
Jaakko Pallasvuo: The Hunchback of South Bermondsey, ‘Act I, Scene II’ (2015) [27:17 min]
Helsinki-based artist Jaakko Pallasvuo explores a dystopic future with a view of the contemporary, as well as the past, in a co-production with Roy Boswell. The sound piece, drawing from three years of three different eras — 2555AD, 1677 AD, and 2015 AD — presents a narrated play that mixes and confuses historical signifiers, only to draw parallels between systems of power and hierarchy across ages.
Klein: ‘Key Changes’ (2016) [6:54 min]
London-based producer and performer Klein talks about her influences spanning the breadth of the internet, from Kim Burrellto Pavarotti, and how it feels to be a self-taught musician and artist being embraced by the greater “electronic realm”. Klein released her first EP Lagata on September 1, where she produces a unique blend of athletic vocal exercises that clash and combine with noisy ambience.
Gary Fembot: ‘Scream of the Mandrake’ (2015) [16:00 min]
San Francisco-based musician, director and zine-maker Gary ‘Fembot’ Gregerson bids farewell to the old days of his Bay Area city’s liberal activism and queer counter-culture, now overrun by Silicon Valley tech employees and bourgeois boutique lifestyles. Using blanched Super 8mm film, Sta-Prest and Puce Moment band member Fembot draws on a specific aesthetic tradition of San Francisco’s radical punk past, while revealing the hollow corporate sprawl left at its disemboweled core.
Easter: Sadness is an Evil Gas Inside of Me, Episode 4, ‘The Age of Corn’ (2015) [17:06 min]
Berlin-based art and music duo Stine Omar and Max Boss of Easter present what their press release, written by Vika Kirchenbauer, calls a “soap opera in the guise of an essay film”. The four-episode series produced between 2014 and 2015 stages a world described as being in “absence of present”, one where multiple pasts emerge through the subconscious and internal worlds of its characters. Filmed with a camcorder and narrated by queer icon Vaginal Davis, Sadness is an Evil Gas Inside of Me contrasts high quality sound with the low resolution video material to construct its own “ambiguous future”.
LA-based, Manchester-born musician and producer Maxwell Sterling takes his classical training in double-bass and experience in scoring film to produce live renditions of cult-producer James Ferraro‘s ‘Burning Prius’, as well as releasing his own music in recent album Hollywood Medieval on Los Angeles Memory No. 36 Recordings on August 6. Through cut-up and collaged images, and layered and augmented synthesiser samples and recordings, Sterling develops an audio-visual experience at the point where nature and the city collide.
Institute for New Feeling: ‘seek: a self-fulfilling prophesy’ (2016) [3:48 min]
Pittsburgh- and LA-based art collective Institute for New Feeling echo humanity’s age-old obsession with future-telling via the dystopian narrative of modern clairvoyance and its corporate co-option. A live personal session in a massage chair VR that uses personal internet search histories and online surveillance to produce a future reading, ‘seek: a self-fulfilling prophesy’ presents an oracle that offers a false sense of calm in the face of uncertainty.
Martha Windahl: Live Skype psychic Reading
LA-based artist, writer and witch Martha Windahl uses alternative logics and practices to make sense of a universe in chaos. Her ongoing performance and clairvoyant work emerged in the grip of the 2008 Global Economic Crisis, not only as a practical solution to fiscal insecurity but also in response to a growing demand for a new source of reason in an increasingly complex world.**
The Amsterdam-based singer-songwriter has not only collaborated with Producer Tim Van Berkestijn to create the well-received and slick ‘Breadwinner’ but also has released early material direct to fans with the Good Thinking EP.
The artist will be supported by Klein, Sega Bodega and DJs.