What does Marina Herlop sound like?
If Fever Ray, Bjork and Juana Molina made piano-electronica.
The review of Marina Herlop – Pripyat
Sometimes albums click on the first listen and that’s what happened to me with ‘Pripyat’. It’s Marina Helop’s third album and it sees the usually abstract piano and vocal musician fully embrace electronic production. In creating a fractured and fractal world that fidgets and spasms around your ears with curious experimentation, ‘Pripyat’ draws the listener in with every note.
Part of this is down to Marina’s vocals and lyrics. Some tracks, I’m led to believe, are in a made-up language. This means that as Marina’s world is uncovered in all its idiosyncratic beauty, we aren’t always sure what the exact intent is. Inspired by South India, tracks like ‘miu’ and ‘ubuntu’ have a melodic sweetness to them as high-pitched choral vocal dances. I feel like Marina was also inspired by the gamelan as several songs use electronic percussive tone blocks as a clunky but intriguing spine to the main melodic thrust of a track. Elsewhere, Herlop’s voice takes centre stage in the ritualistic ‘Kaddisch’ that feels like a crystalline moment in time stretched out into an aching lullaby before it starts including Arca-styled beats and blooming synth bubbles. Think Bjork’s Utopia album crossed with South Indian Carnatic music and you’ll be spot on. Marina’s voice is so empowered with every lilt and twist, it’s an evocation of pure mystery but you’ll understand it from a purely emotional level.
This brings me to the other side of ‘Pripyat’ – its experimental approach to the piano. Tracks like ‘abans abans’ and ‘shaolin mantis’ seem to plug the piano into modular synth arpeggiators. Herlop is playing melodies but then they veer, cascade, pause and then spurt out like confetti at random will. It’s like a hyper-real unfurling of a flower and someone is fast-forwarding and rewinding the footage. It is fascinating to hear as you get mini motifs and unpredictable clashes and cuts but it works so well with the beats. Why? Well, Marina has taken the same approach here too. Beats chop, cut, stumble, crash and clunk their way around you like a skeleton falling down the stairs. It’s playful, bashful, odd and cute simultaneously and I love its creativity. It reminds of a little of how Juana Molina mashes up loops of vocals, keys and guitars but this is a glitchier approach.
‘Pripyat’ is an album full of surprises. Each time I listen, those choppy and spasmodic moments gain more character and feel more at home. It’s also perfect to sing along to as the syllables mean what you want them to and no one can tell you otherwise. Marina Herlop has unleashed one of my favourite albums of 2022 and it’s one of the most unique too. Definitely, a must-listen for the experimental crowd.
Recommended track: miu
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