While Dean Blunt has been more than prolific since the split of Hype Williams in 2012, Inga Copeland has taken things a little slower. The Smoke is her second LP as Lolina, and it finds Copeland at both her most playful and her most obtuse. She amps up the lackadaisical, detached elements of her sound so that they hover on the edge of musicality, but there is something about the way Copeland constructs her music that makes it uniquely gripping.
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Shout out to records like this, that put me in a bind just as I’m about to big them up. Even for an artist of Inga Copeland’s calibre, ‘The Smoke’ is one to take you aback, its dinky keyboards, jittering rhythms and absent-minded mutters bringing about her simplest but also weirdest material yet. It will almost definitely sound terrible on first listen, a misfire and a howler; further listens reveal a strange, special world where only you live.
The backbone of this record is so basic you could probably do it at home: an aesthetic mash-up of smoky bar jazz and Gene Belcher’s “Da Ding Ding”, the record lends tones both naivety and cunning, as if a now learned musician were returning to the music of their childhood and realising the weird sinister potential it had. Copeland’s dedication to keeping it to the keyboard holds this record in its own little dimension, its best passages those where the mundane beats and corny presets simply roll on.
Other moments feel like they’re breaking the fourth wall: the siren-scream hook of “A Path of Weeds and Flowers” sounds huge, an expansive club motif filling out a song that’s otherwise as sickly as the rest of the record. On “Style and Punishment”, Copeland returns to the noisier, more discordant possibilities of her past, with a churning industrial beat playing over the top of her chintzy broken melody. Moments like this completely contradict what 'The Smoke' is, but in so doing they feel fitting: this record's aesthetics are funny and flimsy, there to be broken down.
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