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Johanna Bramli – Spirals EP

Little Miss Echo Recordings

Johanna Bramli - Spirals EPThis is the debut EP from Johanna Bramli, who is possibly better known for being one half of “motorik electronic pop band Fröst“, but I’ve not actually heard them, while I have seen Bramli a couple of times at live shows around Brighton. And verily she is good. Her music’s kind of tough to describe, or perhaps, my slack-jawed flolopping won’t quite convey how arresting it is — lots of gorgeous textural sounds from a range of electronic / processed sources, but a melodic sensibility that pushes it miles away from dessicated sound-art. Occasional singing or vocal elements like pop music for bardo, distended just so.

I think it’s the arrangements, really — found sounds, vocal samples, gorgeous textural bits… Actually, let’s focus on that last bit a second — there’s a bit on “This Shape Won’t Be Familiar” where there’s a sound like a close-miked fireplace, all sorts of textural amazingness, but it’s presented almost off-handedly. It’s such a brilliant deployment, but it doesn’t last for long enough to bed in. Which is to say she’s a total sound textures pusher without (shit metaphor alert) this being ropey gear. All over this record there’s blink-and-you’ll-miss it sounds but it’s all of a piece — none of that scattergun noise approach, it’s all necessary material.

Music with bare tension too — it is breath-catchingly precarious. For the opener “Spirals” there’s just enough of (ostensible) rhythmic elements that it might seem like dubstep restituted from use as ballistics, but I suspect humans have insufficient dimensions to dance to it. Elsewhere, again, on “This Shape Won’t Be Familiar” (lead track, features Debbie Clare) there’s a contrast between the rhythmic regularity of the vocal line and the textures flanking it; just enough of a sense of a “song” to give the impression of form, but equally the impression of abstraction with the elements at the same level as the vocal lead. A wealth of contrasts here.

So I can often get hacked off with… well, a fuck load of things, I’m a miserable bastard … but I’ve known textural sound people to use vocal lines or clear melodies alongside more “head” things, but often as a compromise or juxtaposition — despite the use of incongruity here, Bramli sets textural and melodic elements on an equal footing. It’s not stylistic irony or feint moves, but as if she’s sitting squarely between the old world of melodic invention and the new (ish) world of absorbing “non-musical” sounds from the environment.

Oh, also — props for the artwork too.

It’s ostensibly a “debut” EP, but I’m not for a second buying that this isn’t the result of a load of intense labour and concentration. Debuts are meant to be pock-marked with naivety and glut, but this is a lean and brilliantly considered work. EPs are a format for flack, often, but this is as long as it needs to be. But also I need it to be longer so it’s definitely got leave ’em wanting more nailed. Really though, a full several million out of ten from me.

-Kev Nickells-

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