Klara Lewis & Peder Mannerfelt, "KLMNOPQ"
I believe this is the first formal collaboration between these two Sweden-based artists, but the pair have a long history together, as Mannerfelt's label released one of Lewis's early EPs (2014's Msuic). While I was not sure quite what to expect given the breadth of Mannerfelt's oeuvre and Lewis's continuous evolution, I was reasonably certain that this collaboration would be wonderful no matter what shape it took and I was not disappointed. The closest reference point for KLMNOPQ is probably Lewis's killer Ingrid EP, as nearly all of these five songs feature churning, blackened drones or murky, gnarled loops of some kind. The twist, however, is that Mannerfelt and Lewis take that roiling intensity in an unexpectedly playful direction without sacrificing much gravitas. The closing "Full of Piss and Vinegar" captures the duo at the height of their gleefully mischievous loop mangling, as it resembles a nightmarishly chopped-and-screwed mariachi band, yet this entire EP is filled with endearingly inventive and perversely anthemic variations of obsessively looping and psychotropic sound collage.
The opening "Sell Art" nicely sets the tone for the entire EP, as blown-out, heaving drones slowly churn beneath a trilling hook that sounds like a repurposed mariachi trumpet melody. The central melody sounds pleasingly frayed and ghostly like a ravaged tape loop, but the more impressive feat is how Lewis and Mannerfelt seamlessly transformed festive traditional music into something resembling a techno anthem in the throes of a bad break-up. It is quite a neat trick, as there is an underlying playfulness and dark sense of humor, but the result is legitimately poignant and weirdly haunting nonetheless. Another theme in "Sell Art" that recurs throughout the album is the duo's love of obsessively repeating and layered loops, which has long been a realm in which Lewis excels. In the second piece, "My Clementine Is Making Paella Tonight," a repeating chord swell holds the focus as a steadily intensifying undercurrent brings a relentless sense of forward motion and brooding urgency. Near the end, the consistent rhythm dissolves to make room for more freeform percussion, resulting in something that sounds like Z'ev pounding plastic oil drums along with a Fossil Aerosol Mining Project album. Next, "Styrofoam Tone" amusingly wrongfoots me again with something that sounds like the vocal hook of some ‚Äò90s dance hit chopped apart and rebuilt into a seething and hiss-soaked nightmare. The following "You Need to Be Kind" also sounds like an isolated pop fragment telescoped into an unintended new soundworld, albeit one taking a churning, fuzzed-out, and spacey ambient bent. The EP then closes with the aforementioned "Piss and Vinegar," which sounds like a pre-bullfight trumpet fanfare frozen in suspended animation, then erratically allowed to play out a bit more before it locks into a different fluttering loop. From there, it only gets increasingly disorienting and weird, calling to mind Throbbing Gristle DJing a Mexican street festival and doing their best to get fired. My sole caveat with this EP is that every song feels like layers of loops manipulated with real-time mixing as opposed to more formal compositions, but most Klara Lewis fans (myself included) will be more than happy to hear a bunch of great loops being expertly manipulated and imaginatively juxtaposed.
Samples can be found here.