Last year, I discovered the dreamy slow-core of France’s Heligoland, which was highlighted by Karen Vogt’s rich vocals. For her latest project, Vogt has teamed up with German producer Phillip Bückle. (Sidenote: I find it more than just a little fitting that I began listening to this right around the time I wrote about revisiting Everything But the Girl’s Walking Wounded; Vogt’s voice possesses a soulfulness not unlike Tracey Thorn’s.)
The duo’s five-song Before We Rise EP immediately takes you back to the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, when artists were fusing indie-pop, shoegaze, jungle, and drum n’ bass, with the resulting sounds receiving various labels like “trip-hop,” “drum n’ bliss,” and “indietronica.”
I’ll admit, part of why I like songs like “Before You Rise” and “Layers” is due to nostalgia, as the duo layer shimmering drones and textures over skeletal hip-hop beats in a fashion that recalls Bowery Electric’s masterful Lushlife. But in Bückle/Vogt’s case, the vocals are much more upfront than Martha Schwendener’s ever were, as Vogt sings/sighs/purrs lines like “It doesn’t matter where you are/We’re all in this place and we’re here forever” and “I won’t get hung up on what they say/All of these words are just layers.”
The contorted and distorted beats on “I Can Convince Myself” recall Massive Attack’s Mezzanine while “New to Me” ends the album on a more playful note: ping-ponging marimba-esque beats bounce around in the background as Vogt’s voice grows particularly breathless while singing “It gets through to me/Like the way you let your heart get closer to mine… I like the way you let yourself fall apart.” It’s a nice end to an EP that plays with a style that could easily sound dated and clichéd now, but doesn’t thanks to how well Bückle and Vogt pull it off.