- You can probably guess what the average Brainfeeder release sounds like these days without knowing too much about it—distracted and tangential, sample-heavy hip-hop is the order of the day. It looks like that might be changing. First with Dutch producer Martyn's tough house, and now LA local Christina Ryat, whose avant-garde songs take the Brainfeeder aesthetic and twist its beat-driven collage into something even less linear. The first thing you'll likely notice is Ryat's voice: that raspy but powerful thing that spurts and gasps its way through her intricate beats. At first, on "Windcurve," it's a wordless croon, but once we get to the strained stomp of "Owl," it's constructing half-coherent phrases navigating through the digitally altered detritus of her productions.
The other thing you'll notice about Ryat's voice is its eerie similarity to Björk; while her technique is much less polished than the Icelandic singer's, to deny her distinctive cadence's influence would be foolish. Ryat's music also taps into the same essentially late '90s vein of glitch and harsh processing. The manner in which her voice curls around broken harp samples on "Howl" or the string samples of "Hummingbird" both recall the digital majesty of Homogenic.
Ryat's peculiar brand of sonic manipulation is often violent and unforgiving, but there's a yin to every yang on Totem. On "Footless," a particularly brutal industrial-hum bassline is scrunched up into nauseating jabs, until the whole thing dissolves into a gorgeous piano section that further melts into an acoustic guitar interlude for the album's most fleetingly gorgeous stretch. She turns a brass section into elephantine shrieks on "Object Mob," the guttural growl of the horns matching her own vicissitude, before she suddenly brings in a string section flown in from some Hollywood movie. It sounds like a mess, but it's a methodical mess, and the clashing and the chaos results in some awe-inspiring sparks.
For all the moments of sensory overload, Totem offers up serene interludes, like the acoustic seadrift of "Invisibly Ours" or the ruffled chimes of "Seahorse." The album is supremely balanced despite its seasick churning, and its wandering, easily-distracted narrative voice. Most tracks have so much going on that it begins to feel like tectonic plates pulling in opposite directions, heaving two ways at once and leaving the listener dizzy and disoriented. It's Ryat's crystal clear, wriggling voice that's the glue just barely holding everything together.
07. Invisibly Ours
08. Object Mob
09. Invisibility Cage