- Born in Paris with Egyptian and Iranian roots, Lafawndah has lived in Mexico, New York and Tehran, and recorded her first EP on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe. Unsurprisingly, her music treats pop as a place where sonic cultures collide. Her thorny songs, full of bold sounds and stark juxtapositions, emphasise the friction between her sources, and are often as tense as they are fun. The Tan EP for Warp takes the approach further than the singer-producer's 2014 debut. But it remains hit-and-miss: songs as sparse as these need a strong voice to take charge, and Lafawndah doesn't always find a melody to bring it all together.
The opening half of the EP is her best work yet. "Town Crier" can be filed alongside Holly Herndon's "Home" in a growing collection of heartbreak songs addressed to the state. Inspired by a trip to Iran, she sings, "Can't find out how many you are / And what you're ready to destroy / You gotta understand I'll make you fall," backed by a squiggly synth line and bristling ranks of percussion. "Tan" is even better, its booming, asymmetrical drum patterns echoing Lafawndah's resolve ("Keep trying to brush me off / I'm not giving up"). That is, until the whole thing slows to a crawl in the outro, her voice dropping to a husky whisper. It's a bizarre way to end a pop song.
Afterwards, the weaker "Crumb" feels like a climbdown. "Ally" salvages aimless verses with a killer chorus. The pipe melody that spars with Lafawndah's voice is particularly ear-catching. Its microtonal writhing might be the product of some centuries-old tradition, or maybe just Ableton's pitch-shift function.
01. Town Crier