South London-based musician Klein creates playful, restive, and fiercely original pop deconstructions that warp influences from R&B and gospel to baroque opera to Disney soundtracks. Her latest EP, Tommy, came out on Hyperdub this past year after several self-released recordings and one album on NON. All have garnered a cult following.
Klein’s evolution into musician and producer came as much as a surprise to her as it did to others – she spent her childhood convinced she’d become a lawyer. Her music practice began with a field recording hobby: she would pick up sounds on her phone and then distort and layer them. As she explains, most of her songs are not electronic per se, but rather emerge from samples of her playing instruments or making noise: “my spirit just won’t let me use a preset chord. Nah, I can’t do it. For me, it defeats the whole purpose.” (FADER).
2016 saw the appearance of Klein’s debut album Only, which was self-released online and then put out on a heart-shaped diamond USB stick by DIY label Howling Owl Records. The Lagata EP, also a product of 2016, led to features in Dazed and Confused, The Wire, and i-D. The latter also premiered the Akinola Davies Jr.-directed video for the song “Marks Of Worship”, a stunning, five-minute piece of murky ambience dominated by a Whatsapp sermon sent from a Nigerian aunt.
Tommy, an album dedicated to the themes of vulnerability, sisterhood, and death, marks Klein's furthest plunge yet into the “deep, dark ocean” of her musical imagination. FACT called it an “urgent, deeply original breath of fresh air in a scene dominated by copyists.” Across the eight tracks, which feature appearances by like-minded creatives like Embaci, Jacob Samuel, and Pure Water, her vocals trace 1950s-esque melodies or reference two of her role models, Brandy and Rodney Jerkins. Live piano is filtered through hyper-glitchy, looped production with a loose internal logic cutting from angular atonality to pockets of skewered harmony. In conceptual terms, the fickle, chaotic sonics are bound to modern operatic undertones and a Shakespearean sense of tragedy – in the video for the song “Cry Theme,” a troupe of friends hold an elaborate funeral for her on a beach. The drama, though, is undercut by a punchy, light-hearted sense of humour, and the album’s honesty comes from its multiple, quickly shifting emotional modes. Indeed, Klein tags both her clothing style and her music with the simple phrase, “nothing seems real.” (interview with Crack)