I may be a little late arriving to this one, but it was definitely worth getting around to. What have I been messing about at? Where have I been? Well, I ask myself the same question in a year that hasn’t so much run away from me as evaporated: I certainly haven’t been anywhere other than inside my own head. But I know I’m not alone, and we’ve all got our reasons.
One thing we’ve all been thinking and talking about a lot this year is viruses – specifically, Covid-19. Yet in all of the discussion, little has really been said about not only transmission, but the fundamental nature of viruses. ‘Do you think it will mutate?’ I overheard one dad asking another while out on the school run the other day. The other dad wasn’t sure. I resisted the urge to weigh in and point out that the nature of viruses is to mutate: the first purpose of a virus is to replicate and to spread, and this requires adaption. Indeed, a successful virus doesn’t wipe out its supply of hosts, but instead achieves a level of symbiosis – hence the endurance of the common cold, of flu. These coronaviruses mutate into various strains each year, ad while there are deaths through complications, their true success is their capacity to maintain, to spread, mutate and return, again and again. There’s a reason neither have been eradicated, and it’s not though lack of trying.
And so, having been holed up working on her first full-length release since the release of her second EP, ‘Genderland’ in 2017, the timing of Nathalie Bruno’s album couldn’t be more appropriate. Its almost like an artistic emergence, peeking out into the light after a long time underground. It’s relatable, and of course, ‘symbiosis’ equally carries connotations of balance and equilibrium, and that’s what these 10 compositions are about – drawing together myriad eclectic influences and inputs in a way which works, and is balanced.
There is a lot going on here, and there’s a serious amount of range. ‘Masquerade I’, and counterpart, ‘Masquerade II’ are very much krautrock in their leanings, and ‘Raytheons Radar’ combines the minimal bedroom pop of Young Marble Giants while sounding like The Flying Lizards covering ‘Fade to Grey’.
‘Human’ is more android than human, a mechanised drum beat and pulsating synthesized bass modulation throbbing away to forge a dark retro-futurist disco groove. Disembodied, monotone vocals and sampled snippets of robotic voice cut in and out, whole sharp trills of cold synth organs stab the steely surface. Meanwhile, there’s an almost folksy, psychedelic feel to ‘Visualise the Inevitable’, which finds Bruno delivering a magnificently melodic vocal line, augmented by layers of harmony to beguiling effect.
And for all the diversity, everything comes together so seamlessly under a neatly-crafted sonic umbrella – the very embodiment of sonic symbiosis.