Weird, compelling electronic pop.
In recent years, a number of dance music producers have turned to pop for inspiration. Think of SOPHIE's glossy constructions, Amnesia Scanner's crunchy apocalyptic sound, or the ornately orchestral music of Colin Self. Each artist has emphasised pop's melodramatic qualities, building new sonic worlds through maximalist production. The Belgian artist Céline Gillain takes the opposite approach on her first LP, Bad Woman. She strips down pop components, discards most of them, and recombines what's left at unusual angles—a hard blip of percussion here, a stab of melody there, haunting spoken word woven through it all.
It would be easy to compare Bad Woman's minimal experimental pop with the work of Laurie Anderson or Leslie Winer. Much like those two artists, Gillain metes out cryptic maxims ("Let them see what you have in your mouth / Let them see what you have in mind," she says across a field of drum machines on "Fight Or Flight"). But as the four-on-the-floor power pop of "I'm Grateful" shows, the album has as much in common with contemporary artists like Marie Davidson and Colleen.
The gloomy moments situate the artist in the present as well. The content of the lyrics and titles, both on this record and her first EP, What Happens If I Open My Mouth?, cheekily express the shittiness of late capitalism. "I can't move, movement is too expensive," says Gillain on "Wealthy Humans." "Breathing is cheap—for now!" The vocals, strung across the anxious, echoing percussion, are delivered with an acerbic punch. On "You're Magic," she describes toxic relationships, both interpersonal and structural: "Your friendship is like poison, it's paved with good intentions / But I saw the fraud in you / And once you see it, you can't unsee it."
"In the bizarre neoliberal era we live in," Gillain has said, "you can convince anyone to buy pretty much anything with just a few words if you manage to seduce them… I try to imagine a world where we would use those techniques for other purposes than to sell things or manipulate people." The slower moments on Bad Woman do unfurl seductively. But if it's manipulation, it's for a benevolent purpose—she's giving advice. "It's not easy to be free / but then, it's harder not to be," she informs us on the album's title track. And then, slurring her words: "I have nothing / I want everything / I know nothing / I am nothing."