The most satisfying PAN full-length this year comes from the French duo of cloud rap innovator Lala Ac& and Low Jack, who meets her maple-sweet lullabies and rhymes with speaker burning low-end electricity that sounds like Pan Sonic or Andy Stott rewiring Metro Boomin. Huge recommendation.
If you've been following Franco-Ivorian producer and vocalist Lala &ce you'll know how crucial and unique her blend of sultry R&B, longing cloud rap and tight, diasporic club sounds has already been. Her debut album "Everything Tasteful" perfectly set the stage for her presence, making connections across the musical map and referencing everyone from French innovators PNL to cloud rap pioneers Main Attrakionz and Chicago weirdo Valee. "Baiser Mortel" spotlights her sky-high avant-garde impulses - it was envisioned as a theatrical performance that was staged at the Bourse de Commerce in October last year and assembled by Lala Ac&, with Low Jack in a directorial role alongside choreographer Cecilia Bengolea, costume designer Marine Serre and co-director Oriana Bekk. Between them, the group wanted to put a contemporary twist on the Danse Macabre, a medieval French allegorical form that focused on death against the backdrop of the bubonic plague.
"Baiser Mortel" (the kiss of death) then seeks to reboot the concept as a pandemic metaphor, blurring the lines between ballet and folklore, high art and soap opera. Lala Ac& plays the role of Death, who embarks on a Gaiman-esque journey through the sentient world, absorbing emotions to decipher what it means to be human. She's assisted by frequent collaborators Jäde, Rad Cartier, BabySolo3 and Le Diouck, who add extra tones and textures to the vivid, fantastical landscape. Low Jack, for his part, creates a creaking, whirring mechanical backdrop that echoes Mika Vainio's ice-cold electrical pulses, augmenting them with his unmistakable low-end throb. It's a melange of polar elements that in the wrong hands might usually be hard to tame, but Low Jack and Lala Ac& succeed thanks to their sublime clarity of vision. From the first few notes the kind of mood they're attempting to hew is crystal clear, and as the album pushes on, their carving only becomes more shapely and impressive.
Early tracks like the faintly orchestral intro 'Gouter' (to taste) and ethereal 'Bulles' (bubbles) drive us into the album's fusion of narcotic ambience and industrial trap grit slowly but pointedly. Assisted by Félicia Atkinson, 'Bulles' bolsters swirling atmospheres with Jäde's saccharine vocals, providing a level of schmaltz to offset Low Jack's rattly trunk-bumping rhythm; Lala Ac& takes center stage in the second half, her gender-fluid rhymes lifted by bass and weightless electronics. But 'Gelati' is when the album starts to really reveal itself - there's a case for taking the first side as a lengthy intro leading up to this dizzying star turn: a three-way vocal stand-off between Lala &ce, Rad Cartier and Le Diouck informed by Low Jack's industrial dembow orchestrals. Beautiful and moving, it's cinematic but dynamic, lighting the path to the album's frenzied second half.
Now Low Jack's torrid electronic treatments are allowed to play a more central role, first with the Clams Casino via AFX exhilaration of ‘Lune’ (moon) and then with the bewildering one-two punch of lead single ‘Debout’ (upright) and its crackly sequel 'Superficielle'. Both tracks bed Lala Ac& and her collaborators' rhymes in murky, electrical zaps and cracks, sounding like re-amplified cable hum and amplifier noise fashioned into rolling, sub-fwd slaps. Pan Sonic's influence weighs heavy on contemporary experimental electronic music, but Low Jack and Lala Ac& drive the sounds into genuinely fresh places, using the chilly warehouse crunches and dreamy vocals to mobilize an existential narrative that's chewable and relevant. Slow, sexy and devastating on a decent set of speakers, this is material that actually sounds like 2022, in all its carnivalesque rollercoaster of visceral emotions. We're completely convinced.