9 | Cashmere Cat

It’s not nonsense to say Cashmere Cat was one of the first to dabble in exaggerated, some would say ‘hyperkinetic,’ electronic pop around the time the genre was merely incubating. In 2012, the Norwegian producer released his first EP, Mirror Maru, where he cross contaminated swirls of piano with arbitrary hip-hop beats. He continued to do the same thing in 2014’s Wedding Bells, his second EP. And both relied heavily on being unpredictable and experimental. However, with the release of debut album, 9Magnus August Høiberg held loosely to his previous experimentations, and cemented what was left of them with quite an elaborate pop gathering. The Weeknd, Ariana Grande, Selena Gomez, Camila Cabello, and are among the featured collaborators. It’s not so much the choice of names Magnus brought aboard; but it is how none of them added anything idiosyncratic to their respective tracks. In actuality, the voices are caked up with so much distortion, they’re barely recognizable, and could’ve easily been replaced with unknowns.

Victoria’s Veil” is the only standout, as it’s the only track that doesn’t feature anyone and isn’t limited by pop’s generic capabilities. Its ambient base is heavily textured with smatterings of beeps and squeaks, making for a fun festival showing or nightly drive. “Night Night” featuring Kehlani and “Europa Pools” featuring Kacy Hill slightly fall in the same box, since the artists featured are mostly used as additional synth. Neither of these are seriously hindered by Cashmere Cat’s covet to achieve what SOPHIE did with Charli XCX.

9 (After Coachella)” featuring MØ is perhaps the worst of the bunch and includes a pointless Coachella tag tacked on to the end of it. It’s obvious that SOPHIE didn’t mash well with Høiberg’s approach. Both produce similar music and if SOPHIE had taken full reigns over the album’s title track, it would’ve been different. However, on the second SOPHIE-assisted track, “Love Incredible,” Høiberg limits the co-producer’s PC Music aesthetic and essentially strings together boring synth and boxing beats all to showcase unimpressive lyrics.

On the other side of the spectrum, when Cashmere Cat is the sole producer, complex rhythms are virtually seized off. The production behind “Trust Nobody” simply repeats a synth bop and beat underneath Gomez’s talking vocals, while ignoring the need to differentiate in choruses or rap breaks–leaving them, the chorus in particular, non-existent. He slightly deviates from this structure in “Quit” featuring Grande by utilizing flute-like synth and cow bells to ruffle the generic-ness that it, nevertheless, exudes. However, the production still submits itself below the power of the name vocals.

Cashmere Cat faces confusion between the aesthetic he originated and how to toss it over mainstream lines. It’s a bizarre compilation with absolutely no concept and feels like a badly-run factory on the verge of explosion, or perhaps a strike. He sacrifices the musical aspect in most of the album, likely because he was afraid to overshadow the big artists. But in the end, he does them, and mostly himself, a huge disservice. EH.

Pop, Reviews

Number 1 Angel | Charli XCX

Ever since last year’s Vroom Vroom EP, Charli XCX has been stuffing herself with futuristic bubblegum pop generated by PC Music producers Sophie, Danny L. Harle, and PC’s head honcho and Charli’s creative director (since 2015) A.G. Cook. Number 1 Angel might not have the brashness that a mostly Sophie-collaboration can engineer, but it contains enough exaggerated elements to move pop away from its current state. With a pile up of dirty love and fast cars scratched by polyphonic video game bleeps and buzzes, the exploitation of consumerism is pretty much intact. It feels strange to recall Sucker, when Charli went all retro 80s and lyrics were better put together. Yes, the hooks are still there, but the mindset is so far into the future you can’t even see the rope tying her down to Earth.

The opener “Dreamer” doesn’t come off as anything new with its basic smattering of hip-hop. It’s Cook’s first producing credit and he doesn’t emphasize the unusual aesthetic behind his label, like a crucial part of his team did on the EP. It simply acts as an easing precursor for the slightly hyperbolic music set to follow.

3AM” is instant gratification manufactured with double time heart beats and pure sugar melodies. The reinterpretation of the story in the second chorus when she finally realizes the man is scum after being blindly in love in the first chorus is clever. The appearance of makes it look like a friend’s got her back, and that is surely sweet.

Charli comes off as a masochist in “Blame It On You,” especially right after “3AM.” It’s pretty much the same story as the one told previously; however, this time she knows the man is bad news and insists on staying with him on the count of lust. Haven’t you learned your lesson four hooks ago? Maybe you should be blaming yourself (I had to do it).

At first play of pretty echoing synth, you know Sophie has something to do with the execution. “Roll With Me” is by far the simplest in terms of message (though it has innuendos) and is perhaps the most on target in regards to exercising the point of this whole overblown pop direction. From the way the beats drag and repeat before cutting completely off to display a bouncing interlude of dark soaring synth and heavy bass (reminiscent of “Hard”) is exactly the level the rest should’ve tried to reach.

Super sexually charged Charli actually comes off (deceptively?) innocent in “White Roses,” lulling the listener into her arms during the chorus. It is a rather personal track where she comes off vulnerable and optimistic after singing “no one knows the secrets that you know.” It’s also quite the contrast to when she’d “fallin’ victim to black roses” on punky True Romance almost 4 years ago.

Charli’s continued association with PC’s brand of pop, which has now lasted for two efforts, probably even three (given the promo for her next official album), is startling–especially for an artist who surfaced over dark waves initially before switching over to club retro power pop. And don’t forget, she even made an unreleased rock album in Sweden. I think it’s because she can label herself an early adopter over music that will be prevalent in a year or two. And while Number 1 Angel is considered a mixtape (not sure why or how by definition), it still fetters her to the PC train. And some-what erases “After The Afterparty” which is most definitely just a common pop song. Even though she might be serenading drug dealers with a personalized love ballad in “Drugs” and rotting our teeth in “Lipgloss,” she’d still want to aim higher when the time comes to release a standard album before officially laminating herself as princess of bizarro pop. GOOD.