- "It can be everyday sounds or tiny bits from a track or from a movie," says Klara Lewis of her sampling. "Inspiration can come from any kind of source." Lewis's music often reminds me of another champion of the everyday, Helm. Both producers find an aesthetic charge in the mundane: the hum of a fridge, distant laughter. Both have developed a dreamlike sound that ought to be comforting to listen to but is often distressing, though it's hard to say exactly why. In an experimental scene that increasingly draws on standardised forms and boilerplate emotions, their determination to skirt the edge of the familiar is refreshing.
Lewis's latest album, Too, nails the ambiguity better than 2014's Ett. The tracks are less dependent on repeating loops, instead following fluid, unexpected paths. The textural weave is denser and the emotions it expresses harder to pin down. Too's closest relative is neo-classical ambient—swooning string-like chords, watery climaxes—but Lewis keeps us from getting too comfortable. On "Else," liquid chords lap against, and are ultimately drowned out by, a muffled drone, as if we're trying to listen over the grumble of an air conditioner. Similar sounds sluice around uncertainly on "Want," while percussion taps ominously down below, like the impatient drumming of the devil's fingers.
The rest of the album is similar. Plenty of Lewis's processed samples are attractive, but she smears and darkens them until they're just vague shapes in the distance. Percussion, when it appears, is a vague funereal thud, and voices are unintelligible. A track like "Once," a cloud of sound that takes five minutes to emerge out of silence, seems calculated to express no clear emotion at all. Depending on your mood, it could be blissful or unsettling, or more likely some awkward combination of the two.
All of this restraint starts to drag after a while, and a few more dramatic moments help push things along. The glittering drones in opener "View" are gorgeous, and the weird tortured squeal that pops up halfway through "Too" is bizarre. Closer "Us" starts with a few seconds of jubilant applause, as if congratulating us for making it through the world's most surreal marathon. From there it launches into what sounds like a punchdrunk Cocteau Twins instrumental. It's almost pop, but off-key samples snake across its surface like tendrils of fog, making everything less clear.