- Like the biblical animal it's named after, Serpent Music speaks with a forked tongue. At first it seems harmless; only later do you realise what you've gotten into. It's no surprise that Rahel Ali's PAN debut is such a slippery animal. His music has always been hard to pin down, first as TEAMS and then, under other aliases, releasing on labels like Janus and NON. Those affiliations suggest that he makes club-related music, but he hasn't often done so. (On this album, the excellent "Broke In" with Oxhy comes closest.) Serpent Music, under the name Yves Tumor, is as difficult to parse as anything Ali's made.
It begins seductively. A chunk of the record, made when Ali was living in Leipzig, addresses "relationships and stuff." It's the producer's most naked and tender music, made with lush guitars, frazzled drum loops and his own heavenly falsetto. The shorter tracks—"Devout," "Role In Creation"—sound like old soul records trapped in loop limbo. Others, like "The Feeling When You Walk Away," are built out into almost-pop songs. The album's first third consists solely of these tracks, and it's beautiful. A whole record like this would've been perfectly nice.
But from there the sweetness starts to sour. The middle of the album explores a stranger kind of sample collage, stitching together unlikely sounds and moods. At first the shift seems odd, but after a few listens it becomes clear that this is where things really get interesting. On "Serpent II," a voice barks instructions over crashing cymbals and a distant French horn: "Wake up! Upright! Attention!" "Spirit In Prison" pairs a birdcall-specked field recording—innocuous but tense somehow—with what might be a Bollywood ballad. On "Seed," one of Ali's head-nodding loops tunes in and out under a tinny squall of noise.
Ali gets back around to the sweeter stuff, but by the album's end—"Cherish," "Face Of A Demon"—it's picked up a funny aftertaste. Having given into the album's temptations, we're soon trapped in "Perdition," where a choir sings in dolorous minor key over the endless, empty lapping of water.
02. The Feeling When You Walk Away
04. Role In Creation
05. Serpent I
06. Serpent II
07. Broke In feat. Oxhy
09. Spirit In Prison
11. Face Of A Demon