Radical “discomposer” Klein renders her naturally avant slant on classical paradigms with utterly captivating results featuring guest vox by Charlotte Church for the Pentatone label. A massive RIYL Alice Coltrane, Actress, Robert AA Lowe, Wanda Group, Yvette Janine Jackson, Mark Leckey.
Five years since her cult first release ‘Only’ sent everyone reeling, Klein is now clearly one of the most thrilling figures in new music. ‘Harmattan’ is her perfectly unexpected but logically Queen like move into classical music, offering a more pronounced and quietly profound example of her string arrangements set in diaphanous ambient/electro-acoustic space, and only occasionally dusted with her vocal sorcery, beside a guest appearance by rogue angel Charlotte Church and London-based grime MC, Jawnino. Aye, rub your peepers again and give yourself a lil pinch as ‘Harmattan’ unfolds one of the most hypnotic dream sequences of 2021; a beguiling and confounding high water mark of any genre.
Forming a “personal journey from childhood to now, titled after the West African season”, Klein’s executive aesthetic decision to mostly do away with drums and location recordings in ‘Harmattan’ results in what theorist and poet Fred Moten describes as “a soundtrack of epic revolt against beginnings and ends.” The links to her usual gospel, R&B and grime touchstones are felt more implied, even psychically charged, as the recording unfurls from angular, jabbed keys in ‘For Solo Piano’, thru scenes of devotional woodwind thizzed with fireworks on ‘Roc,’ to effusive Delian synth modes in ‘Champions’, with track titles such as ‘Not A Gangster But Still From Endz’ and ‘Trapping In C Major’ more literally locating her music’s background, and no doubt giving us chuckles to see this on a *proper* classical label run by former heads of Universal and Philips Classics labels.
Front to back the album is a lowkey head-melting upending of convention. Mysteriously working in space between instrumental and electronic dimensions, the palpable acoustic textures of her first pieces give way to increasingly detached and enigmatic tones of distant orchestral percussion recalling Yvette Janine Jackson’s approach in the transition from ‘Trapping…’ to ‘Unknown Opps’, and from alien tones to Alice Coltrane-like cosmic symphonic in ‘The Haunting of Grace’, with seven minute centrepiece ‘Ray’ extending to more ambiguous, cinematic drone horizons, and the nerve-tweaking turn of phrase in ‘Made for Ibadan’ gives way to her curdled duet with Chazza Church on the exceptionally spellbinding highlight ’Skyfall.’
You can probably tell we’re a bit taken with this one, so we’ll stop short of over hyping and let you take it all in in your own time. But suffice it to say; it’s magisterial, life affirming stuff that’s bound to light up the weirdos but also transcend classical music’s putative audience. Seriously, bravo!