Lana Del Rabies
It’d be easy enough to spy Lana Del Rabies’ moniker flitter past on a screen, give a quick chuckle, and keep scrolling. Sure, imagining the aughts’ most tranqued chanteuse getting high by the beach on bath salts rather than benzos merits some mirth, but thankfully the moniker Phoenix’s Sam An has used for her recent recordings doesn’t portend madcap zaniness. Instead, An samples from a wide range of noise, industrial, and dark traditions to assemble disturbing and often violent tracks which place a premium on rhythm without ever becoming garish or excessive.
It’s as tough to describe the composite form An ends up offering on Shadow World as it is easy to identify the record’s influences and component parts. Textures and motifs from power electronics, rhythmic industrial, and the broadest (and roughest) understanding of early American darkwave all find their way into the mix, but are brought to bear by An’s submerged, lo-fi production style and sparse arrangements. The stabbing static and accompanying nails on chalkboard scrapes of “Devour”, for instance, might not be too far removed from early Dive, but the way in which they interface with a low, booming klaxon and An’s pained yet almost wistful vocals aren’t remotely in Ivens’ ballpark.
The ambiguity of those vocals, haunting but seeming to connote very real, very concrete, and very contemporary horrors rather than otherworldly specters, is given plenty of space to shift about in Shadow World‘s concrete haze. When “Repose” morphs into something approximating the classic rhythmic noise template for its last minute, with rapid beats and distortion finally pressed close enough together to blot out anything else, it comes as a shock, putting into start relief just how much space and atmosphere An’s given the rest of her beats.
Whatever the provenance of her sounds, An’s voice finds ways to bend them to her purpose, whether she’s barking out condemnation and confession simultaneously amidst “Disgrace”‘s boiler room hisses or weaving her way through the circular lope of “Unwilling”, perhaps holding on to half-remembered childhood melodies as talismans of strength. For a record so uniformly bleak and upsetting in tone, Shadow World showcases the considerable talents and range of an artist who knows a myriad secret avenues and passageways, though each may very well lead to the same intractable hell.