Raisa K - Feeder [EP]
To go solo is to enter a critical minefield. Even discounting the effect of an outdated binary of 'fidelity discourse', where the inferred originality of the initial incarnation assumes an inherent superiority over the offspring, the shadow of your first home looms large. Particularly when that shadow is that of Mica Levi and co, aka Micachu and the Shapes, one of the most thrilling experimentalists operating in the last half-decade of 'pop' music. They evoke the childish glee of the first time you blow on the lid of a bottle and it whistles back at you, but filtered through the technical ability and compositional skill of a group of conservatoire trained musicians. It's a unique condensation of chaos into a dense, confined space, where these three weirdos expertly eviscerate any sense of conventional pop nous via homemade instruments, rampant experimentalism, and collaboration with the London Sinfonietta. They hear the contents of an unreachable cupboard clatter and smash around them, and turn it into the beat of the next single. They play solos on hoovers. It's experimental pop music at its most elusive, abrasive and exciting. So – no pressure for Raisa K, one third of this innovating force, and on the evidence of Feeder, her debut EP, the most angular shape of them all.
In a sense, it does represent a move away from the Shapes. The childish spirit of experimentation is replaced with the evil machinations of a toddler, romping through the sludgy sonics of K's industrial nightmare. Opener 'Repetition' is an undeniable earworm, but perhaps due more to the gruelling nature of the track's vocal chant, parodying the nature implied by the title over a Beck-esque fuzzy groove. It feels like a diatribe against repressive parental catechisms ("Please will you do this, please will you do that"), but feels more like a strop than a statement. It's too similar in style to avoid comparisons to her previous work, and clearly lacks the sizzle of the Shapes.
After the synth-heavy 'Intro', reflecting K's primary duties previously, comes the most comparable track to the style of albums such as Jewellery – 'Bowl With a Hole'. The simplicity of the vocal line and production style remains, but rather than a chopped and screwed pop tangent, it feels stilted. The dense production made Shapes records feel like a bizarre, warped distillation of what pop music should be, yet never quite allowing it to escape the strict confines of marginality. Unfortunately, tracks such as this, and lead single 'Feeder', which features a video of burlesque heroine Betty Grumble learning that eating sand of wearing heels on the beach are both objectively bad ideas, result in more of a heavy industrial plod than an challenging push.
'Even Better Even Worse' matches, to better effect, K's chanting with a pulsing, skittering beat, until it sounds like someone scratching a fairground ride as a turntable. As the drums fragment, and only just remain together, the chant returns at an even higher pace, as the track morphs into an abrasive caricature of itself, and the childish chant becomes more bratty and disorientating.
The end-section of the EP moves away from the atmosphere of playground politics, and into more abstract territory. 'Guitarry' feels like the most keys-led track, and moves away from vocal sneering to more traditionally electronic territory to promising effect. Rather than an offensive wall, K creates a more texture. 'Seasick Sailors' closes the EP with an evocation of wandering through the apocalyptic wasteland brought about by the wanton destruction that preceded it. Again utilising faint irony in its title, it's free of the stomach wobbling subs that have underpinned much of this chaos, and the result is a pretty, affecting sketch. However, the attempt of a lilting half-beat in the drum's pulse halfway through the track betrays its beauty, but ends up as more of a divulging distraction than a thrill.
This is an introduction to a world that takes the leftfield pop experimentalism of Micachu, and attempts to take it a step further in its tendency to discordancy. Perhaps suitably in the context of K's namesake, it at points mirrors a Kafka sense of absurdity, and could be seen as a parody of the heterogeneity of mainstream pop music. Unfortunately, it lacks the master stroke to bring its nightmarish vision about the parapet of innovation and into the territory of subversion, and remains too abrasive to be hypnotic in its industrial feel.