- "I go diagonal," Aerea Negrot sings on Arabxilla's title track. She sure does. Aerea Negrot is the sound of modern, internet-fostered globalization, with all the bizarre turns and shifts that come with that hasty mishmash of cultures. Originally hailing from Venezuela, Negrot found herself travelling throughout the world before finding a home in Berlin and on Ellen Allien's label Bpitch Control. You can hear it in her music, as innumerable ethnocultural influences are boiled down into a Berlin-friendly and vaguely technoid melting pot. The album's lyrics are a jumble of Spanish, German and English, and Negrot switches between them effortlessly, rendering parts of the album mysteriously foreign to any number of potential audiences.
Co-produced by Berlin techno scientist tobias., the production on Arabxilla feels as fractured and dissociative as the influences that birthed it; it's certainly not techno, but it fits right in on the oddball label. Prickly and compulsively jumpy, it matches Negrot's frazzled cadence or sometimes subsumes it entirely (the oscillating onomatopoeia of "Come Back"). You might know her best as Hercules & Love Affair's androgynous diva ("Painted Eyes"), but here on her own turf she assumes a variety of vocal personae, from crooning to barking to croaking to narrating. The album's opening trio of songs is a hall of mirrors of vocal tricks likely to scare away prospective listeners as much as rope them in, but there's no denying her vocal ability, comparable to Bowie at his most deranged.
Derangement seems to loom over the album: Negrot deals in extremes. On the dubby tobias. remix of "Hair," she sings about her hair falling out due to stress ("but people think it's fashion"), and "Todeloo" is an uncomfortably honest glimpse into her family life. The album's slower moments ("It's Lover, Love") are extraordinarily tense, and even the piano-led section of the touching "Move To... Berlin" suite stops and starts as if Negrot is too choked up to go through with it. All of Negrot's tics come together for climax "Listen to the People," the album's most chaotic track. With a chorus like "listen to the people who come inside you," you can probably guess that it's full of oddball soundbites, and the song's blatant depiction of sexual content is more likely to disturb listeners than titillate them.
Arabxilla is the kind of album you admire more than enjoy, the product of dense and layered webs of ethnic, sexual and geographical artifacts. There certainly is a lot to enjoy here, but only brave or particularly adventurous listeners are going to linger through all fourteen of these self-aware identity projects. Negrot's sound was intriguing on her first two singles for Bpitch Control, and her oddly sultry croon undeniably fitting for Hercules & Love Affair's decadent disco, but spread over an album her neuroses nest into restless compositions that seem like they would take an eternity to properly unfold. For her chance to break out into something bigger—a debut album on a prominent label—Aerea Negrot went the opposite route that most would take. She went diagonal.
04. A Volar
05. Deutsche Werden
06. Please Move To...
08. Breathe Deeply
09. It's Lover, Love
10. Come Back
11. Hair (tobias. Album Version)
13. Listen to the People
14. It's Lover, Love (Dub)