Splintering off from “Swiss Canadian art punks” Peter Kernel for a solo jaunt, Ontario’s Barbara Lehnhoff is donning new skin. Transformed into Camilla Sparksss, she’s not exactly jettisoned that arty/punky vibe, and much of the material on her debut LP For You The Wild is astoundingly alienating, avante-garde and oddly magnetic. It’ll put some (read: most) off with the opening bars, but those that stay for the experimentalist cacophony and Arbutus-aping din will be rewarded with some sublime dance-pop and electronica.
Fans of Crystal Castles‘ enigmatic terror schtick and the fringes of CSS‘ brashest, ballsiest, brattiest cuts will be grinning ear-to-ear during the gladiatorial melee on display. “Cold wave/hyper pop” is the name of the game here, apparently. The former may bear some semblance of accuracy, but although pop’s present, it’s not prevalent and it’s less ‘hyper’; what’s left is more distorted, tortured and torn asunder than a Britney Spears meltdown. It’s definitely in Salem, Crystal Castles or CSS’ ballparks rather than in any tangible pop territory; it’d be a stretch to expect For You The Wild to harass the Top 10 any time soon.
Upliftingly monikered You Are Awesome, no relation to the Lego Movie‘s Everything Is Awesome, isn’t as empowering (at least in the traditional sense) as the name might imply. “Since I heard your name it’s hot shit/ then I saw your face it’s all that/ asshole,” Sparksss/Lehnhoff screeches above skittering beats and the meatiest god-fart of a bassline you’ll hear. Post-industrial bombast Europe is all synth strings and e-harpsichords amidst a barked manifesto, galvanising some unknown demonstration into action. You’ll glimpse Health‘s gratuitous carnage and subtle beauty on Killer – Sparksss caws blood-curdling levels through roughly-hewn synths and dead-eyed drum machines. It’s hugely atmospheric; it’s a kind of oxygen-deprived sweat-pit from which no light escapes.
It’s not all doom’n’gloom though. There are clarion clarities plonked on the pedestal by Sparksss. I’ll Teach You How To Hunt, with lyrics spat (avec blood and saliva) onto glacial synth floes and the trampled remnants of a beat-stampede. It’s woozily chaotic, like a bad trip in pitch black, and fuelled by jerking, stammering drum machines that peel away from the comparatively saccharine synthesisers. Akin to a cyborg Anna von Hausswolff, White Cat propels a barrage of gothtronica organs and ambient lullaby-esque Warpaint-warble vox into your ears. It’s smooth, though still shadowy, and a welcome respite from the aggressive nature of For You The Wild. Watch out though; she blasts in some sonic warheads to keep you on your toes.
The LP is equal measures malevolent, in-your-face demonics and crystalline, albeit drowsy, electropop. Sparksss flits between relative calm and dreamy, vaguely gothy electronica, and the kind of grizzled, barbed ferocity that Alice Glass wrote the manual for. It’s a fascinating album nonetheless, and if you can’t stomach the noise that she occasionally drops into the mix, then at least you’ll find solace in the hazier numbers. If you can withstand the aural onslaught, you’ll find even more reasons to adore this debut. It is a great first outing – there’s plenty of swaggering confidence, and even if Sparksss’ constructions are often familiar, she performs them with intense conviction.
This is the antithesis of bedroom producer slackerwave. Still electronic, DIY and solo, it looks at the thrift store 4-track, vintage Macbook and assembly of motley instruments, but instead of yelping with excitement, it douses the bedroom in kerosene, burns the place to the ground and scoffs down a meth rock.