The music that Switzerland born, Nepalese-Tibetan artist Aïsha Devi makes is truly novel. Mystical, mostly beatless, and driven by her unearthly vocals, it’s electronic, but unmoored to genre. Like futurists Arca or Abyss X, Devi operates in a zone where sound design is paramount, and occult, haunting atmospheres, rather than songs, are the end goal.
Though Aïsha Devi is her real name, it’s also something of a musical rebirth, as previously she went by the name Kate Wax, producing techno and electronics for Border Community, Output, and Mental Groove. On her first Aïsha Devi material, such as 2014’s “Throat Dub” on her label Danse Noire, she brought her cultural heritage to the fore, employing the Tibetan throat singing technique.
Throughout DNA Feelings, her voice is an expressive instrument that she uses for spoken word monologues, speeds up into high-pitched sounds, or alters into autotuned utterances. On “Time is the Illusion of Solidity," Devi’s voice is slowed right down, while a computerized voice delivers spooky pronouncements on the nature of immortality, and a morass of synth drifts above. “DNA” has soulful revenants of her vocal floating free in cavernous space, sometimes treated, while luminous ectoplasmic electronics ripple through the track. “Mentasm” hoover bass—a classic rave signifier—glowers in the backdrop as a ghostly reminder of Devi’s dance music history. “Dislocation of the Alpha” melds her throat-singing technique with spoken word and a moody synth tone, while fractured percussion interjects on the track. It’s theatrical, disquieting stuff.
The ethereal atmosphere of the album can be traced partly to Devi’s interest in meditation. She has said that meditation changed her life, and a new age philosophy seems to permeate the mood of DNA Feelings—especially the idea that music can have a healing function in the way sound frequencies affect the body and mind.
The album's most exciting moments find Devi subverting the norms of dance music. “Intentional Dreams” has riffs that could have been culled from some shimmering psychedelic techno track, and looming Reese bass. But by removing the beats completely, and cloaking the lot in capacious reverb, the sound takes on a new alien dimension. “Aetherave” has oscillating trance textures intertwining with her voice, and "Inner State of Alchemy” finds thudding kick-drums and martial rhythms creating an urgent mood. The way the drums crack through the track, when they emerge from the gloom, is electric.
In her dedication to new sounds and manipulation of the voice as an instrument, Devi could be comparable to Björk (in latter-day experimental mode), but she has a singular style of her own that pays tribute to her dance music past in a vivid and original way. DNA Feelings has moments of brilliance, but its dark mood and single-minded vision become oppressive over the course of its runtime. Those fleeting rave touches combine so well with her extraordinary voice, you can only wish there were more of them.
01. DNA ☤ ∞
02. Dislocation Of The Alpha
03. Intentional Dreams
06. Inner State Of Alchemy
07. Light Luxury
08. Genesis Of Ohm
09. Time (Tool)
10. Time Is The Illusion Of Solidity
11. Cell Stems Spa
DNA Feelings LP will land on May 11 via Houndstooth.
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