Marina Herlop’s music is pushed by her outstanding voice: She is able to each hopscotching by way of operatic higher registers and settling right into a dreamily dulcet tone, usually inside the similar tune. The Catalan experimental musician explored comparatively conventional classical types on her first two albums, 2016’s Nanook and 2018’s Babasha, whose songs for voice and piano, with occasional digital accents, mirrored her conservatory coaching. Pripyat, Herlop’s third album and first for cult label PAN, takes a stunning left flip. Introducing extra pronounced vocal manipulation, drum patterns, and additional digital elaborations, Pripyat is her most multidimensional and engaging work thus far, stretching the human voice in seemingly infinite instructions.
The addition of a 3rd instrument to Herlop’s toolkit—particularly one as boundless as manufacturing software program—dramatically expands her sound. The choice to deal with electronics was as a lot sensible as creative. Piano and voice “have been the one instruments I actually had,” she admitted of her earlier albums. But the pc is important to Pripyat’s astonishing breadth because it strikes between off-kilter rhythms and atmospheric electronics whereas showcasing the power of Herlop’s voice. On “Lyssof,” she sings a bounding a cappella verse earlier than glitchy manufacturing swarms her: A crinkled electrical guitar line, metronomic synth pads, and digital chatter threaten to break down in on one another earlier than coalescing right into a recognizable form. “Abans Abans” minces a piano melody into tinkling ribbons over a thudding, deconstructed drum beat, taking a full minute earlier than Herlop’s voice arrives in varied alien varieties to string every half collectively. She builds pressure with these disparate summary components, fastidiously setting up an immersive world round her voice, which is regularly processed, stretched, and pulled aside at will.
As on Herlop’s earlier albums, nearly all of the lyrics on Pripyat are in an imagined language, forcing her music to depend on syllabic phrasing and harmonies. She was additionally impressed by the Carnatic music of Southern India, interpolating the model’s percussive vocal expressions on “Miu” over an amniotic backdrop of rippling tones and vibrating suggestions. Earlier, in the course of the standout “Shaolin Mantis,” Herlop gasps, coos, and chirps over watery chords and a juddering, danceable drum sample. Evoking Björk’s mischievous vocal tampering, right here Herlop leans into an exciting sense of play and invention. Listening to Pripyat is a vertiginous expertise, like transferring by way of the stops and begins of Herlop’s thoughts in actual time.
A delicate theme of renewal programs all through Pripyat, conveyed by way of each its mercurial sound and its title. The album is called after a metropolis in northern Ukraine that was deserted after the Chernobyl catastrophe in 1986; at this time it stands as a ghost city overgrown with timber, flowers, and shrubs. It’s a putting, eerie, and surprisingly becoming picture of posthuman life to pair with Herlop’s polymorphic music. Pripyat offers form to a future world, one the place language isn’t required to ascertain deep connections to the earth and to at least one one other.