NNA Tapes (Matthewdavid, Anthony Child) front the new LP from Brooklyn ‘microtonal pop’ group Erica Eso. While there are numbers in which the five-piece explore the tones between the tones - the Perfume Genius-meets-Kid A ‘Mirror Stage’ tracks and close-harmony take ‘Vaccination Free’, for instance - there are also tracks here that could pass for new Frank Ocean material. Or tUnE-yArDs at least. ‘Gun-Metal Grey’ and ‘Fire Is The Mouth’, we’re looking at you.
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We love it when NNA releases pop music and they’ve very much done it here. ‘129 Dreamless GMG’ is a fearing and embracing parable told through gorgeous, sheeny aesthetics (synths and saxophones, baby!) and heartfelt first-second person melodrama. Fragmented but forthright, Erica Eso’s lyrics deftly fit the world they’ve created for them: retro in a world that has no more space for nostalgia, and guessing the future through sonic sci-fi, they sing in a way that maps out the middle-ground: personal relationships and political turmoil in this bastard called 2018.
Beauty is imprinted in many of these songs, but so too is paranoia, the tempo of “Fire is the Mouth” chasing the sombre tranquility of opener “Gun-Metal Grey” out of the room. Eso’s themes move through resignation and urgency like both are necessary experiences in our current climate, the discordant, chiming synths, guitars and backing vocals of “Fire” imploding on their own answers. Smoother, they make “Love-gun” a kind of ironic meditation, offering a simple synth-pop song and feeding into it the amorphous, time-twisted constitutions of pop music -- it’s squelchy, noisy, busily structured and meandering, talking about lovers and TV ads in a nauseating, over-consuming romance.
It doesn’t sound familiar -- unlike other records fascinated with ‘80s monoculture, Erica ESO sees the electronic shmaltz of old as only one of many things it can absorb. “Mirror Stage II” is a sweltering noise drone with flickers of dissonant effects and fragmented bass slaps, suggesting some kinda half-smooth hauntology you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere else. What Erica ESO does with their sound palette is kinda like flicking through TV channels at excruciating slow motion: stumble upon gloomy predictions of the future and then a documentary about the Beach Boys (hey, “Vaccination Free”), and let them mingle in your brain. You've got to hear it.
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- 129 Dreamless GMG by Erica Eso
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