What does Marina Herlop sound like?
Experimental electronica and pixie oddness.
The review of Marina Herlop – Nekkuja
Marina Herlop found herself facing her inner critic when waiting for her album ‘Pripyat‘ to be released. Becoming restless, she decided to work on what would become ‘Nekkuja’, an album to cultivate her inner light. She visualised herself as a gardener and weeding out her bad memories or emotions. As a result, whilst still being wildly experimental compared to the standard musician, ‘Nekkuja’ is a celebratory and uplifting album and possibly Marina Herlop’s most accessible to date.
Everything about this album has an unworldly glory and divinity to it. Opening with ‘Busa’, we are met with laughter, dramatic percussive slams, trickles of stretching synth notes, discordant harp plucks and vocal purring chants. It’s as if we’ve entered an alien garden where the organic is manipulated into something familiar but unknown. ‘Cosset’ is a glorious unfurling of piano and harp strings and then piano notes themselves as they run the gambit of many octaves. The track becomes increasingly more chaotic and bountiful. By the time a ricocheting chunky drum loop joins in like a jumping jack surprise, you are swept up in the splendour and marvel the song creates. Add in some beautiful wind instrumentation and crazy synths and you have Herlop’s breakthrough single in waiting.
There is an ethereal folk underbelly to the album that pokes through in its quieter, more angelic moments. ‘Karada’ is one of those, using a mysterious abstract harp arrangement and twisted bird song to draw you in. Marina’s voice moves from sweetly layered to warped and distorted as she channels an unfamiliar, playful language and tone. It reminds me of Inuit singing with a faerie sensibility but it is entirely Herlop’s own style. Her voice takes centre stage for ‘La Alhambra’. This slow-blooming piece invests time in building up vocal snippets into a chorus of vocals that become both the main melody and the backing chords. Backed by a spine of crashing drums and towards the end, a funky electric guitar, there’s nothing else quite like it out there.
Moving into the final third of the album, ‘Reina Mora’ takes us on an experimental dance. Fast hand percussion that spasms and seizures like clipped wings run around a scattered piano and vocal snippets. A fast and flowing bassline grooves away totally separately. It’s as if the entire song is trying to fly away from something but it is scattering in different directions. It brings us to a utopian ‘Interlude’ of birds, bees and warped synths before the pitch-bending ‘Babel’ closes out the album. The track sounds like a fiddle is being time and pitch stretched like a tension string. Slowly as softer orchestration joins in, Herlop’s voice blooms out into a chorus of soothing restoration.
No one is making music quite like Marina Herlop and ‘Nekkuja’ is yet another fine demonstration of this. Wildly unique, and experimental – but never without form or melody – this is another album that shines in the dark. Whilst its short runtime is a slight shame, this is a compact bountiful basket of music that gives a delicious taste of utopia. A delightful to listen to and lose your imagination in. I hope it finds room in your musical garden to grow too.
Recommended track: Cosset
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