We all suffer from a little bit of unconscious bias, you know–and we’ve just got to accept that, not try and pretend that we don’t. We’re at the stage now where we need to just accept it and let’s look at how we can try and identify it and then work with it.
Renu’s journey into the conflict between the head, the heart and the crotch. Hmmm, that’s a weird thing to say, right? Well… no it is, it’s weird–but I never let that stop me from saying whatever’s in my head.
Fierce in her beliefs and true to her art, if Renu’s released a new album it’s because she’s damn well ready to release a new album, and has planted her vision as fully as is possible.
It makes me smile to identify footprints audible in Midnight Radio that she has left throughout They Dance in the Dark. There’s much of that DNA in Queen of Heaven, and I love that–in the delay on Always You–in the spoken word. Water into Words is a good example of what I like about Renu’s style of composition, she puts as much effort into choreographing the slides from section to section as she does in the chorus.
When the EDM vibe is absent, the style is born from geo-political experimentation with a European, straight-edged bass and drum ensemble core and an arabic folk-twist with some beautiful vocals.
Always You got deserved playtime on 6 Music, and also is a proper good EDM tune. Sern Nos is what this album is about, it’s got the barebone, archetypal soul of this album. Throughout the album is a scattering of electronic phrases from the ages, vocal padding as in Chicane’s trance classic Saltwater, drums bit-squashed like IDM from the turn of the millenium in Raised Heavy with that disjointed cerebral IDM drum pattern. Even some guitar tone/effect akin to Radiohead in To the Mountain and Linkin Park in Raised Heavy.
Renu is exceptional at producing with vocal layers. She handles delicate, cracking and ‘overtonal’ sonic qualities as well as anyone I’ve heard.
When Renu gets outspoken with her production is where she seems to shine the most in the more EDM of the tracks on They Dance in the Dark. ‘Salma…’ is throbbing with modulating lead synth. She shouldn’t shy away from pushing her sonic statements right to the top of the envelope. Occasionally I find it isn’t mixed to the kind of limits like I’d want, 1984 for example. Therein lies that conflict between the head, heart and crotch
*Must stop saying crotch, it’s becoming a thing*
In contrast, Queen of Heaven is unmistakeable in its intent and comes right from the crotch, but as Santana points out, you play with your head, heart, soul, god (I think?), and your ‘kahunas’.
Queen of Heaven rings with Renu’s signature string layers which don’t sit smugly, instead they speak with a pseudo-improvisation–an organic dynamism that permeated Midnight Radio. At a point the pace is allowed to drop before all the instrumentation comes back together, as orbiting particles, never quite getting away until they unite back in the groove. I could wax lyrical for ages about Renu’s ability to be understated and therefore say so much. It’s wonderful to listen to.
Now, I really like Boys and that slightly worries me, not for the obvious pun, but because on an album that’s described with as much gender politics as this is, I sort of worry there’s a hidden musical extended-metaphor. Am I reinforcing the mysognistic imbalance? Am I being subversively objectified? Am I patriarchy’s misguided flâneur? Is this white guilt? OK, I exaggerate…
‘Boys’ is a great finisher and ups the pace right at the end, with some awesome Bernard Hermann style strings. And with that, it is almost as though we’ve journeyed from the intro EDM of Always You on into Renu’s head and on into her heart and now we’re coming out from a deep dive, back to the dance floor where we’ll eventually be asked to kindly leave, with some disco synth and 4/4 kick.
Tennyson are going places, their previous release Lay-by is a work of brilliance, and it’s great to see they’re upping their game, and not allowing themselves to fall into formulae. If you like Stevie Wonder lashed funky chilled electro with hyperactive production and a brilliance when it comes to the gaps between the notes then I think you might like this. They have a style that’s reminiscent of the demo function on an early mass-market keyboard taken through a breakbeat mill and sprinkled with trills of the neo-soul patterns currently littering contemporary electro. Occasionally the sound quality almost feels like muzak, one step ahead of any criticism that can be imparted, they send themselves up in one brilliant post-modern ‘elevator’ moment. Worth your time!
A vibraphone-driven ethereal, swollen trek through lush lo-fi with hi-fi throbs and soulful, searching vocals. For the head, drum and bass gets no better.
Renu – “Time is Time”(Midnight Radio: Holykuti Records, 2012)
A poignant and breathtaking meditation on life, spoken – wordlessly – by a composer of enormous talent. Emotional and spellbinding.
tennyson – “Lay-by” (With You – 7 inch b-side: self-released, 2014)
Head-turning, trance-enducing, car door sampling electronic perfection that picks you up and drops you at exactly the right time.
One Self – “Bluebird” (Children of Possibility: Ninja Tune, 2005)
One of the better known tunes. On its production DJ Vadim, Yarah Bravo and Blu Rum 13 made an underground classic, from an album with a timeless hip hop feel but with an experimental edge. Like truly timeless music, this will breathe new life over and over again, for a long time to come.
Rameses B – “New Horizons (VIP)” (Freedom: self-released, 2011)
A liquid dnb tune that channels the continental trancestep (interpret that as you like) sound tearing its way out of your head into dizzying ecstasy highs with existential exploration to boot. Touchingly dedicated to lost loved ones. On first hearing, nothing that special – but let it in and it’ll show you its full spectrum of wonder. Contains a sample from the 1990 film Jacob’s Ladder.
Algernon Cadwallader – “Casual Discussion in a Dome Between Two Temples” (Some Kind of Cadwallader: Be Happy Records, 2008)
Casual Discussion in a Dome Between Two Temples is a touching and beatiful jangly harmonic noisy piece of musical poetry. Hugely popular as a (now defunct) truly independent and underground band, and performers of a great live show who had one of the loudest drummers I’ve ever heard.