Trance

VIDEO PREMIERE: Machweo - Chant

Will Shenton

On their latest video, "Chant," Italian experimental group Machweo explores the hypnotic effects of contrasting movement. The song is loosely structured into two parts—one almost orchestral, the other solidly in the realm of trance—and the liminal spaces between them offer an opportunity to unify two sounds that seem irreconcilable on paper.

The music is accompanied by an understated performance from dancer Anxela Malo. By playing Malo's simplest movements both forward and reverse, director Nicola Galli encourages us to pay attention to the details—the twitch of a muscle, overlooked on the first pass, becomes obvious when it's reprised a moment later. The effect is subtly surreal.

As Machweo's acoustic instrumentation builds to a slow crescendo, an electronic beat begins to simmer beneath the surface. At first, it's quiet, only clearly audible when the other instruments take a brief rest. But as the song continues, it starts to dominate the mix, transforming the track into something altogether more propulsive and jagged. Malo's dancing evolves to match the music, culminating with her entire body twisting back and forth, hair splayed with centrifugal force.

"Chant" is an aptly named and utterly mesmerizing video that highlights the dynamic textures Machweo have become known for. As the opener on their forthcoming album, Primitive Music (out 3/23 on Portland, OR label Lefse Records), it bodes well for the new project.

REVIEW: Kitty - Miami Garden Club

kitty.jpg

Phillipe Roberts

“I think it’s so ironic that you’re taking your holiday exactly where I wish I could escape from.”

Yikes. These words from Kitty’s “509 Seabreeze” should sting for a native Floridian like myself, and they absolutely would if they weren’t so blindingly accurate. Growing up in the margins of the nation’s tourist trap is a peculiar privilege; pinned between two luxurious, sandy coastlines and punctured by a monstrous fairytale complex where a laughably low minimum wage keeps the dream alive for seemingly everyone but its residents, the Sunshine State naturally breeds escapist fantasy.

And it’s exactly here that we catch up with internet pop prodigy Kitty. After losing the entire first draft of her album to the unfeeling void that is LAX baggage claim, she began a hometown recovery effort that would become Miami Garden Club. True to its name, the debut album documents an artist clawing out of the weeds, with Kitty pruning and primping her sound into a sprawling collection that bursts with color. Over the course of its thirteen tracks, she sharpens her trademark electronic bounce to a point that threads the needle between ballads and bangers—it slices through to the core of boredom-fueled love and lust without skipping a beat, and picks up new tricks along the way.

After years of winding her hypnotic, breathy vocals around other producers' tracks, it’s refreshing to see Kitty producing her own this time around. Even better, the first time seems to be the charm: some of Miami Garden Club’s finest moments feature Kitty dancing to the beat of her own drums. “Affectionate,” a sly warning to a former lover, fuses the album’s strongest vocal hook to a tambourine groove that bucks her usual vaporous tendencies in favor of a neon-drenched, mid-tempo thump. It’s the album’s most infectiously danceable moment. And while “Sugarwater,” later in the album, might initially feel like a retread of old ideas—its clicking hi-hats and woozy synths are vintage Kitty—having complete control over the production seems to inspire some of her best lyrics. “The name of the band is Talking Heads / But you always add a 'the' to the beginning” is one hell of a cred-obliterating dig, especially to someone who can’t walk a hundred feet without “stumbling over flyers for your show on the street.”

In this light, it makes sense that the album only truly stumbles on tracks where Kitty relies more heavily on collaboration. “Mass Text Booty Call,” despite its hilarious premise and a bit of fun braggadocio in its opening radio skit, falls short in the absence of a convincing hook. But thankfully, Kitty hits far more often than she misses when she commits to her ridiculous, spontaneous energy. When “Asari Love Song,” an '80s power ballad for her “intergalactic love,” erupts into a soaring guitar solo, it’s undeniably convincing. With heart-stopping synth stabs and crackling reverb snares coiling around her sweetly menacing vocals, Kitty conquers this new, funky territory with frightening ease.

Moving back home—even when that home isn’t brimming with mosquitoes and dogged by hurricanes—is never an easy proposition. Endless questions, real or imagined, about whether you’ve failed or how long you’ll be back seem to lurk around every familiar corner. To an artist like Kitty, who pioneered the model for using a crafty internet persona to flee from small-town obscurity, the move had the potential to be downright paralyzing. Miami Garden Club, with its leaps in songwriting and production that reaffirm how far she’s come from those limiting surroundings, is not the sound of paralysis. It’s the sound of a master escape artist putting her well-laid plans into action.