Boomkat Product Review:
Karen Gwyer returns with 'Rembo', her first full LP for Don't Be Afraid - a propulsive, functional affair dotted with colour and narrative, a record that calls firmly to the night...
"Live performance is where Gwyer's ideas come into gradual but vivid fruition, with tracks often evolving over "five or six shows" before reaching the studio. Throughout 'Rembo', dozens of shows and endless stolen studio hours have informed 38 minutes of uncompromising body music.
"What I'm doing is trying to challenge a certain way of thinking", she explains. "I feel like, without it being said, I get treated as a warm up act for DJs. And I also feel like when I go and play, I want to disprove that notion. I'm standing there for an hour, and I don't necessarily know what's going to happen. I have a loose idea, but I'm definitely working the crowd. I'd like people to shift their thinking in regards to what producers are doing, and to acknowledge the fact that there's a lot of decision making happening on a second-by-second basis, and a lot of it is improvisational."
Throughout her youth in Michigan, with Detroit on the nearby horizon, the city's time-honoured musical heritage slowly sank under Gwyer's skin. First through public radio, late night transmissions and endless cassette recordings, then on the life-changing local rave scene.
"Before the internet came along, you were listening to the radio, and you knew who the DJ was, but you had no earthly idea who the records were by", recalls Gwyer. "You just listened to the music, and you didn't listen to the people. And because you didn't ponder their personalities, you weren't engaged in the process. And I loved it, it was pivotal to me. I still have records on tape, and I have no idea who made them. I lie awake at night thinking about how am I ever going to find out what that track is? I have a snippet of it in my mind, but how will I ever know?"
'Rembo' then, is in some way a tribute to those transformative moments caught on tape. And while the pressures of raising a young family means that Gwyer has fresh pairs of young ears to potentially inspire, instead, this is a record that calls firmly to the night; an album to transport both artist and listener to dark, sweaty rooms, to shared escapism and unexpected moments of electronic transcendence..."