- The London artist's second album is a disorienting glimpse into a fascinating inner world.
- Klein is drawn to storytelling. On the subject of folklore and music she explained, "The thing with music is like, anyone can do pop, innit? What sonically I want to hear for myself is stories. I think it's just years of me watching musicals and theater." She has since turned her fascination with narrative-building into a fantasy musical titled Care, a Disney-esque musical set in a London care home. The world Klein creates bears the whimsical hallmark of Disney films, with "strings, butterfly sounds, harmonies" setting the stage for a proper fantasy. These sounds were counterpoised by the "nightmarish" and dark parts of the soundtrack, adding to the unpredictable nature of Klein's sound. Lifetime cements this balancing act in a way that resembles several disjointed memories told through meditative live sessions.
While her music carries the playful tinge of the traditional fairytale, at its core her sound is shadowy and untethered. On her past releases, cc and Tommy, Klein displayed her refined ability to develop narratives via grim and what she likes to call "spiraling" production. Klein is clearly not concerned with traditional song structures, preferring to play with rhythmic vocal riffs that arrive muffled and buzzing in and out like radio static. Much like the gospel powerhouses she was taken by growing up, Klein's vocals are instruments that can oscillate quickly between high-pitched and soulful to foreboding alto drones.
Klein has previously relied on distorted, barely-there lyrics to frame her stories, but what she nails best on Lifetime is her poetic use of sampling. The LP is largely influenced by her religious upbringing, with some of her experiences referenced through dreamlike Spencer Williams film snippets in "We Are Almost There" and alien vocal riffs chanting "18 years" in her collaborative project with the sound collagist Matana Roberts, "For What Worth." Tracks like "Honour" more directly confront conservative perspectives, with a recording of a family member, wavering above a glitchy midrange, rousing a disgruntled cousin of Klein's on a hot debate about the Bible and accountability. The rhythmic single, "Claim It," is a fever dream of twisted wailing, breathy coughs and sped-up cackling, standing out as the most club-ready of the 12 experimental tracks.
Klein's ability to convey an eerie and emotional story despite her spare use of traditional lyrics is also a testament to her evolved production. The album reveals deep chords and experimentation with 18th-century tonalities, wave-like ambient sounds and fairytale strings. Layering is essential to her methods of developing chaos. This is most notable in her closing track, "Protect My Blood," where, in the opening moments, screeching organs and a voice announcing "There is a place where you will go after this!" coalesce into a synthy maelstrom. The album flows like a transcendent mix, each song building on top of (or intentionally disrupting) the previous one for a jarring impact.
This isn't the first time Klein has explored religious themes. Raised in a traditional Nigerian home, she apparently listened only to gospel music until her final year of school. Her song "Marks Of Worship," off her gospel-influenced debut, Only, stands out in her catalog, a "self-cleansing" piece centered around a sermon. Lifetime is a culmination of Klein's autobiographical experiments, tying up the scattered archives of the religious upbringing glimpsed in previous works. Without succumbing to simplicity, Klein's latest release delivers an intimate vision of the mayhem, loss and detachment that can ensue from a whirling cycle of panic and redemption.
02. Claim It
03. Listen And See As They Take
05. For What Worth feat. Matana Roberts
06. Enough Is Enough
07. We Are Almost There
08. Never Will I Disobey
10. Camelot Is Coming
12. Protect My Blood