sat 26/09/2020

Album: [MONRHEA] - her[ART] | reviews, news & interviews

Album: [MONRHEA] - her[ART]

Album: [MONRHEA] - her[ART]

Debut from female Kenyan electronic producer showcases innovation and possibility

A moody labour of love

The debut album from one woman outfit [MONRHEA] shows off the seriously impolite electronica that’s blossoming in East Africa. Electronic sounds from Africa are over-represented in Europe by jolly pop and elegantly faceless house music, but there’s a whole lot more going on.

The debut album from one woman outfit [MONRHEA] shows off the seriously impolite electronica that’s blossoming in East Africa. Electronic sounds from Africa are over-represented in Europe by jolly pop and elegantly faceless house music, but there’s a whole lot more going on. Via uber-producer and Killing Joker Martin “Youth” Glover’s Youth Sounds label, this album gives an exciting taste of the wild gumbo of dancefloor-friendly experimentation that’s on the bubble there.

[MONRHEA] – and I’m going to lose the square brackets and caps from hereon – hails from Athi River, a town outside Nairobi in Kenya. A self-taught DJ-producer, she has built a regional reputation for vanguard sounds on labels such as Uganda’s East African Records and her own Rhealistic Records. Born Maureen Wanjiru, her surname means “from the dark” or “from the ash” and her[ART] seems to take this as a metaphorical starting point for its sonic bearing.

The album consists of seven tracks but these often run up to seven or eight minutes long. The default setting – at least, for the first half - is a smudged pulse, a smeared bass-end percussive foundation that’s part African polyrhythms but equally reminiscent of blood thumping around the head when adrenalin hits or, more industrially, the hum of a power station that may be about to blow.

There is then, threat in these tunes, but over the wilfully muddy underlay, effects skitter, machines play techno games, and the listener is carried along on a journey that’s part Warp Records clonkery but part something new and else. And then “Fehling” arrives, filtering in twangin’ blues guitar, adding distorted riffage to proceedings before “Mandiie” take a pause, the only vocal track on the album, two minutes and 20 seconds, a soft spoken-sung poetic contemplation against a twinkling slow android soundscape.

Finally, there’s “Mr. P”, which suggests leaving the crunching moodiness behind, offering up a bleeping, tuneful, almost Euro-trancey feel, ending things on an up. Digesting the whole, after a few listens, Her[ART] is a gripping beginning, a starting point, but on a possible trajectory towards eventual comparison with anyone from Helena Hauf to FKA Twigs. It's also a klaxon for edgy East African electronica.

Below: Watch an hour-and-a-half Monrhea DJ set that explores bass music

Comments

Excellent to see [MONRHEA] getting her props at last! Great review and top album

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