Blind Item

Orphins is a new project from Mari Kattman Shear, who while largely known for guest appearances with numerous scene acts and as half of the Helix project with partner Tom Shear, has been on a run of self-produced releases over the last few years. As counterpoint to the more song-based exercises that revolve around her considerable vocal power and charisma, the material on Blind Item is far more abstract, pulling in elements of hyperpop and bass music, with voices given a more textural role. “Repha’im” stretches and warps Kattman’s familiar vocals into strange shapes, pictched up and down in contrast to its heaving, breathing bass and bitcrushed drum breaks, twinkling brightly but with a measure of menace lurking in the shadows. “Laas Geel” brings to mind classic Warp-era IDM via its awkwardly funky drum programming and chittering synths, while closer “Ima” brings a processed hip hop sample in as its key rhythmic element, contrasting its more melodic synths and chopped and pitched voices. The EP’s centerpiece is “Yōkai”, a track that uses a doubled drum loop to create tension against its omnious pads and distorted and manipulated vocals, some of which are so stretched out they lose all coherence and become atmospheric. Just as that track seems to be winding up, it takes an unexpectedly turn with a musicbox outro that highlights the melodicism that’s been lurking behind the track the whole time, a move that handily summarizes the remit of the project within Kattman Shear’s broader catalogue.


Dallas-based project Llora has quietly been building anticipation for its debut proper via gigging since the debut of its 2020 demo, but it feels like the stars have aligned for the release of this LP. Certainly Llora’s deployment of an icier and less confrontational style of EBM feels au courant, like a more saturnine rethinking of the recent italo body music wave, with numbers like “Clock” and “Bad Behavior” sitting somewhere between the cinematic but understated EBM/synthwave hybrid of Brixx’s Erotomania and Mellow Code’s leftfield yet poppy approach to EBM on Objekt Reality, two records which stood apart from the crowd last year by taking the road less traveled. But EBM isn’t the only element in the brew: check out the early Mode-isms of “Forward” and the bellicose synths and bass of “Sunday”, which stumble across harmonies as they seek some sort of release for their restless irritation. Solid stuff with substance beneath the ghostly panache.