Review: Karin Park – Highwire Poetry

No fartin’ around, straight off the top: this is an exciting, thrilling, sonic mess of an album that rewrites the rules for electronic music in the modern era. Rare is the album that envokes a sincere heavy rotation of your humble blogger shouting “holy shit!!” while listening, presence of the mini-Softsynths and various easily-startled pet hangers-on be damned.

We dug Park’s last album, Ashes to Gold; it was seriously dug. But it was simply a solid, lovely electronic pop album. A few songs on the Softsynth iPod playlist but nothing life-changing. Now, sounding like a demented Bjork, before she abandoned all pretense toward melody, this inventive Swede is bringing the cool back to electronic music.

The combination of a truly lovely voice (which she also manages to stretch into an uglier drone when she’s so inclined), choice electronics and a healthy dollop of come-by-it-honestly quirk is tasty stuff. This album is chock full of tunes that embody this trinity. From the choppy, fascinating single “Fryngies” to the sweet, haunting “Bending Albert’s Law”, to the sonically-weird “Tiger Dreams”, to the more straight-ahead pop of “Restless” it’s solid, start to finish. Her use of sound is downright striking. Sometimes it’s minimalist bleeping and squawking, other times it’s lush soundscapes, but it feels so original, so fresh that it’s head-shaking (in both wonder and one’s need to move to these captivating beats).

In the course of a one-album shift she has gone from dance-pop competency, to exhilarating experimental shitkicker and suddenly the genre feels tremendously enriched.

It’s been a few very good weeks. After a lot of mundane, sometimes genuinely disappointing releases in the electronic world, the trickle of solid, terrific genre albums has become a torrent and while it’s only mid-year one can already start to populate a likely best-of 2012 just based on the past month and a half or so. This album is no exception – as good as it’s been this year in a year that is suddenly, surprisingly, looking very much alive and sparking.

Watch: Tiger Dreams

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