Lafawndah Tan [EP]

[Warp; 2016]

Styles: global bass, avant-pop, Acting Basic
Others: FKA twigs, ADR, Elysia Crampton, Planningtorock, Blood Orange

The global bass movement is here; you can’t escape it. It’s the dark growl beneath Arca’s Venezuelan trap, the Andean huayño rhythms and postcolonial critiques on Elysia Crampton’s American Drift, the fair-trade parodies and free-jazz pastiche of ADR’s Chunky Monkey — heck, it’s even arguably the Caribbean riddim on D.R.A.M.’s Billboard-hit “Cha Cha.” Like South African kwaito and Caribbean dancehall before it, club culture is changing, as rhythms of the Global South again find their way into our dance consciousness, now often paired with sharp postcolonial commentary and a dizzying pastiche of popular forms.

At the center of this conversation lies Lafawndah. In 2014, her self-titled EP was an incredible part of this rise, working with Garagem Banda in “island life” seclusion on the obliquely tropical dance tracks. Her incredible mixes for PS1 and The FADER, and killer remixes of artists like Planningtorock and Andrea Balency and from Lotic and Dinamarca have done big things since 2014, moving from the early amateurism of the EP into blisteringly hi-fi, hypercompressed dance tracks flooring clubs the world over.

After signing to Warp, her latest release, Tan, offers shrill electronics, thick kicks, and rhythmic delays, rattlingly reminiscent of zouk bass and kizomba traditions. Lead single “Tan” carves out space for an incredible vocal performance, with its video growing into a tight, choreographed, polyrhythmic dance routine. The video’s got a certain yellow glow and flat digital sheen that take me back to early-/mid-aughts pop hits like Nelly Furtado’s “Promiscuous Girl” or Pharrell’s “Frontin,” all while offering plucked and pitched, reversed and reverb-drenched anarchy. Much like the dark intensity of FKA Twigs’s M3LL155X, Lafawndah has a knack for these loose, breathy pop melodies that, when layered over hard electronics and jarring harmonies from layered, repitched vocals, create an uncanny horror, a grotesque ambivalence between avant-pop and Acting Basic.

Tan is a big move for Lafawndah, lush, tropical drift through pitched hits and warped harmonies. The production on “Town Crier” feels heavily indebted to SOPHIE’s work with Le1f, rife with hard-hitting kicks, rolling snares, and whizzing FM synths. “Ally,” with its soft samba undertones, swells to lethal intensity with pitched vocal harmonies at sharp, claustrophobic intervals dominating the tracks. Pulling from the ambivalent irony of Aaron David Ross’s Chunky Monkey, Tan is club-ready, post-pastiche, dancehall euphoria — with rich melodies and thick rhythms, the new pop has arrived. If this is the future, may we live in it in paradise.

Links: Lafawndah - Warp

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