Smurphy A Shapeless Pool of Lovely Pale Colours Suspended in the Darkness

[LEAVING; 2015]

Styles: #smurphwave, hybrid-club, noise
Others: Lao, Post-Pastel, N.A.A.F.I

Constituting one of the recent notable ruptures in club music — acknowledged here by SCVSCV — is N.A.A.F.I. As a group, they function to forward shifts occurring on the peripheries of mainstream contemporary music in Mexico. Jessica Smurphy has recently waded in N.A.A.F.I’s pool, releasing 2014’s #GEMINISS alongside output from “tribal” producers Javier Estrada, DJ Tetris, and Alan Rosales. Although existing in geographical pockets, groups like N.A.A.F.I make up a global network where styles are expanded across territorial boundaries to form peculiar hybrids. Smurphy’s music, for example, is informed by sub-styles of rave music and techno in addition to other global microcosms.

While the term “tribal” is used to identify certain output from aforementioned N.A.A.F.I affiliates and a specifically Mexican undercurrent — encompassing Prehispanic, Guarachero, and Costeño — I’d suggest it also has another meaning that can be adequately applied to Smurphy and A Shapeless Pool of Lovely Pale Colours Suspended in the Darkness. Andy Bennett (2006) suggests that the term is useful when “subculture” is lacking, due to the latter’s implication of fixed divisions. “Tribe,” on the other hand, recognizes the temporal nature of identity. It avoids “the supposition that subcultures are subsets of society, or cultures within cultures,” which imposes “lines of division on youth, music and style which are very difficult to verify in empirical terms.” The reality, he claims, “corresponds more closely with Maffesoli’s concept of tribus or ‘tribes.’” Maffesoli (1996) conceives that the “tribal” notion is “without the rigidity of the forms of organization with which we are familiar, it refers more to a certain ambience, a state of mind.”

It’s certainly fruitful to appreciate Smurphy’s music in relation to an ambience or a state of mind. Indeed, it seems depreciatory to consider Smurphy’s music in the club context alone. Although undoubtedly indebted, there’s perhaps more pull from sections of the DIY/noise camp; on the face, A Shapeless Pool should appeal to proponents of a creed more accustomed to washed-out FX, echoed drum-machines, and hypnotic song. Besides, for A Shapeless Pool, Smurphy jumps ship to LEAVING, who have been forcing their own fissure with inspiring releases by Ahnnu, High Wolf, and Trance Farmers. The Smurphy project too is one of especially personal value for someone with a history of collaborative efforts in Post-Pastel and Supermad. It’s hinted in the artwork, which features a sketched figure with its heart literally on the sleeve.

Much of the record comprises echo-drenched vocals and delayed synths over a percussive, rhythmic underbelly, exemplified by opening track “Missing2MyBB.” Collectively, there’s a seamless continuity wherein each track relates spatially to the next, giving the whole thing a liquid-like substance. Focal points appear and drift away, such as “J A R D Í N,” where wonky, unstable flickers of percussion interplay with an infectious, pitched vocal pattern. It’s bare in texture but strong enough in principle to potentially hold its own as a club track. The distorted kicks that ultimately back it up simply affirm the piece’s strength, although their absence would be otherwise inconsequential. “Le Doppe Shoppe,” on the other hand, alternatively draws attention as perhaps the most noisy offering.

A Shapeless Pool arguably provides less stability to hold onto than #GEMINISS, but that’s not unfavorable. After all, it’s meant to be unstable, and slippery, and volatile — essentially shapeless, in the sense of being indefinite. In Smurphy’s words, it’s an album about love felt as an animate phenomenon: “It is a living thing, it is sudden, it is insane.”

Links: Smurphy - LEAVING

Eureka!

Some releases are so incredible we just can’t help but exclaim EUREKA! While many of our picks here defy categorization and explore the constructed boundaries between ‘music’ and ‘noise,’ others complement, continue, or rupture traditions that provide new forms and ways of listening. Not all of our favorites will be listed here, but we think each EUREKA! album is worthy of careful consideration. This section is a work-in-progress, so expect its definition to be in perpetual flux.

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