Review Summary: evolution
For three years now, Cashmere Cat fans have been waiting. We haven’t had any certain non-single projects since Wedding Bells
, and up until literally today, it seemed like the LP might never drop. To make matters worse, a rough draft (titled Wild Love
) leaked late last year, and it was pretty half-baked, with a lot of long overly plodding instrumentals and repetitive vocal hooks. Songs were frequently being dropped and forgotten, for better (“Throw Myself A Party” was emblematic of the problems of Wild Love, although I suspect its disappearance has more to do with the complete removal of Starrah) and for worse (“Adore,” probably the best thing Magnus or Ariana have ever put out, mysteriously absent). The previously detailed and fitting album art disappeared and was replaced with a simple “9” over plain black, with no clear meaning. And of course, collaborators are present on almost every track on either draft of the album, something completely absent from either of his EPs. The point is, it made sense to be hesitant about 9
. But I’m here to tell you there’s nothing to worry about.
The biggest concern I’ve heard is that there are too many collaborations. Ignoring the subtly sexist and at the very least anti-pop nature of most of these complaints (try to read the comments on a song of his with a female vocalist without finding something about him working with people who are implied to have no actual artistic ability), this is not an album where the main artist gets overshadowed by the “feat.” markers. Magnus’s production style is obvious on every track. Twinkling bells and dripping synths are paired with rapidly accelerating drums, brief uses of negative space and left-and-right glitching vocal chirps. If anything, his style is more consistent now that he’s finally gotten the reputation and label clout necessary to use the R&B vocals he’s obviously always been dreaming of using – there’s no more R&B-esque sections in tracks, only actual R&B sections, a significant upgrade for an artist that was always missing the humanity that lyrical hooks provide.
Meanwhile, some people had the opposite feelings – Cashmere was perhaps becoming uninteresting, another producer with a simple style whose production was no longer a guarantee of quality but instead raindrop sounds as a DJ signature, a sound creator instead of a talented songwriter. I’ll admit to being in this camp pre-9
, especially after I heard Wild Love
, but I was wrong. This is a superbly interesting album, with a solid construction and an airtight playlist where most artists with this many tracks in their vault would create a longer, easier-to-chart mishmash of an album (looking at you, Hudson Mohawke). The 22, A Million
-esque prismizer is just one of many new effects that add a whole new twist to what might have otherwise become a formula, and getting the brilliant student of sound design SOPHIE on a couple tracks certainly didn’t hurt. Meanwhile, the actual verse-chorus structure of some tracks adds a lot more memorability than he’s ever had before. And a relatively brief 34-minute runtime of tracks that generally balance between his old, in-your-face style (“Victoria Veil”), a subtler, more background role (“Trust Nobody”), or a great mix between the two (“Love Incredible”) makes for a great listening experience.
Whatever your issue was with the idea of 9
, whether you thought Magnus was getting too reliant on others or too cocky, it’s OK. Put your fears to rest. He’s back, and better than ever. A recent interview revealed that he started making this kind of music as a joke, just trying to check off all the worst stereotypes of the generic things bad R&B artists do, soundclowning before it was a thing. It took seven years, but he has evolved from highlighting the flaws in a style to inventing his own. Here’s hoping he continues the progress in the next two.