Review Summary: baby, we're ascending
If her first EP Bluff
saw Yunè Pinku peering suspiciously at dancefloor genres though the chinks in her bedroom blinds, its contents an appropriately jagged concoction of trepidation and intrigue, then the follow-up BABYLON IX
is her way of constructing a more holistic liminal space where the two intersect without boundaries. Synths twinkle, vocals slur and shimmer, motifs evoke the menu displays of countless video games, and a slow cascade of 2-step and breakbeat supports the whole package with a distinctly tactile pulse. The traditional reference point for this kind of elfin, selectively material music is Grimes, but her stranglehold on self-fashioning within digital space has long outlived its welcome - the deadpan confidence of Yunè Pinku’s delivery, the plip-and-chime of her synth tones, and her savvy collage of dance and dream all sit far closer to the cyber-progeny who refashioned the shattered plastic of PC Music into something disconcertingly responsive to the human heart, most notably Yeule (an echo that rings both ways, as Yeule remixed the title-track from Bluff
and has frequently performed it live).
I’m not digital / I’m just feeling
proves to be the EP’s defining lyric - ironically enough, it would have crumbled over the larynx of any vocalist who didn’t
present as a convincing digital native, but coming from Pinku it scans as a precious moment of affirmation. Highlight tracks “Night Light” and “Blush Cut” complement this with a heavily foregrounded sense of vulnerability largely absent on Bluff
, arguably the greatest advance BABYLON IX
makes to her oeuvre - if this isn’t necessarily dance music for dancers, then these tracks open a soothing set of alternative possibilities for it. The obvious critique is that Yunè Pinku’s approach across these songs is a little too homogenous to show these at their full scope, but at six succinct songs, her new aesthetic hardly risks overstaying its welcome. That nitpick also has an equally obvious one-song foil in the EP’s most mercurial track, “Sports”. Though its beat and bass initially nod towards retro techno, the song continually shifts its footing through tense chordscapes, flickers of breakbeat, uneasy hi-hat patterns and Pinku’s most tantalisingly oblique lyrics. She speaks three rhythmic languages interchangeably (techno, breakbeat and, at 1:33, commercial EDM) and while the track may be the most at odds with itself, it’s all the more engaging for it. We only get a hint at such moments elsewhere, as on the painstakingly delicate “Trinity”, which pauses at around the two-third mark to scratch the weave of its background melodies with coarse bitcrush, flexing a boldness over Pinku’s typical sensitivity to texture, something that might have been explored with a little more flair across the board. As it is, it’s a subtle show of dexterity from an artist I strongly suspect has yet to show her full hand.