Every now and again an album, and artist, comes along that leaves you breathless and exhilarated. After playing it you are left speechless and at a loss to make sense of what you’ve heard. So you play it again. At the end you know it was enjoyable and it spoke to you, but you are at a loss to try and articulate it.
‘Lifetime’ by Klein is this kind of album. To fully understand it, you feel like a biologist, slowly peeling away the layers to find out how the album lived and worked. The album opens with swaying synths and before a brooding melody erupts from the speakers before Klein wails and groans.
As her vocalisations become more abrasive, choppy and haunting this is when the track, and album, really starts and tells us everything we need ‘Lifetime’. This will not be a conventional album. Klein has something to get off her chest and at the end of ‘Lifetime’ we will have experience something more than a few well-placed breakbeats, basslines and lyrics about life.
‘Claim It’ is more conventional, with skittering beats and basslines. Over this gloriously choppy backing track Klein, again, performs vocal gymnastics. Effectively ‘Claim It’ is everything electronica/bass music should be in 2019.
One of the first things you notice about ‘Lifetime’ after a few listens is the lack of beats. This is stylistically interesting and another thing that separates Klein from her peers. For an artist who exists in that Hip-Hop, R&B, Bass world it feels avant-garde. But Klein has always been unconventional and done things her way.
On her mixtape ‘Lagata’, and her underrated debut on Howling Owl, ‘Only’, Klein used beats as punctuation to give her vocals, and music, more significance and prominence. When she released ‘Tommy’ on Hyperdub, a label famed for his use of beats, Klein delivered her most ethereal and diaphanous released to date.
So it shouldn’t be a surprise that on ‘Lifetime’ they are absent from the majority of the tracks. But it is! Each track on ‘Lifetime’ feels like it has been constructed out of varying layers of steam and gas. As you try and dissect them, and latch on to something tangible, you sink further and further into it.
Part of this is down to how Klein uses her vocals. Instead of singing, rapping and warbling she uses it like an instrumental, creating sounds and tones before manipulating them to create her gauzy compositions.
‘Lifetime’ is broken down into two parts. The first five tracks deal with modernity and the how these times can be either a living dream or nightmare. The music is lurid but familiar. The remained of the album deals with the diasporic black experience. Haunted gospel choirs, dystopian synth swirls and cut up vocals that create and almost never ending cycle.
At its heart ‘Lifetime’ is a classical album composed of contemporary sounds and tones, Burial producing Gesualdo if you will, and this is its charm. Instead of doing what we expect her to do Klein has done something else entirely and that is why she should be cherished and extolled from the rooftops, subways and online.
This is an album encompasses everything Klein has experienced so far. It is rich with texture and ideas. Let’s hope it doesn’t take her another lifetime to create something as singular and enjoyable as this.
Words: Nick Roseblade
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