FFO: Sleigh Bells, Metric, Imogen Heap, Alicia Walter
“It’s actually what this whole night is about. We’re here to raise awareness for meta-art,” Chris Noyes of Adjy said before kicking off an unreleased song. It’s a moment that stays with me, a sort of tongue-and-cheek instance where the line between humor and sincerity are blurred. What IS meta-art?
Alivenique hopes to attempt to explain this, or at very least it hopes to expose us to it. I’m immediately reminded of the quirky, pastiche nature of Alicia Walter’s I Am Alicia where all rules are off the table. Alivenique might be making pop of some fashion, but it’s not quite as concrete as you’d expect. The project pulls influences from plunderphonics, hyperpop, and Imogen Heap-inspired autotune for a result that is as unpredictable as it is beautiful. Percussion ranges from claps to household objects, but there are moments (like on “Cachaça”) where conventional pop bleeds forth at full strength. It’s as in Shakira grew up on jazz.
Project mastermind Ali Beletic tops several tracks off with French lyrics – indeed, several track titles are in French as well. It’s prominent enough that at a glance, you might wonder if ANY of the songs are in English (it’s not uncommon for francophone countries to incorporate a healthy mix of English and French). Here, the French is mostly ornamental, and it’s the most exposure I’ve had to the language since college. There is undeniably something beautiful about many of the words, and it’s hard to argue that this aspect of the record doesn’t add a bit of class to the songs.
The title track is an early highlight in the record, what with its dial-tone-ish lead riff and heavy synthetic focus. Beletic’s vocal cadence oscillates between spitfire lyrical delivery and sultry passion. Underneath the processing, it’s clear there’s something very familiar about her voice. And the track walks the fine line between chaos and compulsion for the listener, reminiscent a bit of Sleigh Bells.
The aforementioned “Cachaça” is a groove-driven hit with one of the most accessible overall structures on the record. The chorus peels back some of the vocal effects to show a bit more grit and personality (perhaps a hint of fatigue, as well).
“One Stop Manifesto” has a bit of an alternative edge and conjures memories of Metric. Even so, Beletic’s voice carries over with haunting ease. It’s the most guitar-centric track of the bunch and is definitely an interesting angle in lieu of other tracks and their vocal-chopping foundations.
The record closes with “Je Suis Ali” (which again is hard not to compare to I Am Alicia). It’s a bombastic track with a whirling refrain of, “We are never ending.” It’s not the strongest track on the album nor the most ambitious, but there’s definitely a lot of interesting things happening with vocal melodies and layers.
Year of the Statement is some strange auditory art installment, with each song acting as a certain themed chamber. There’s a lot going on, and most of it is interesting, if not simply novel. Alivenique manages to borrow from alternative rock, jazz, hyper-pop, and the world of experimental production for a result that is familiar in many ways without ever feeling derivative. Not every track is a staple, but the highlights are spaced out fairly evenly to keep the momentum going. This is the kind of record that pushes the boundaries of what “pop” is in all cardinal directions, and it’s largely successful in its efforts.