Kellarissa (nèe Larissa Loyva) is hardly a new face on the music scene, but she’s new to WOBC. An alum of P:ano, The Choir Practice, and Gigi, she’s currently on tour with Destroyer in support of her sophomore effort, Moons of Neptune. It’s a distinctive, keyboard-and-vocal driven album that immediately sets itself apart from, well, nearly everything that I’ve heard this semester.
The formula for these songs is easy enough: angular synth or vocal line is introduced, but it’s fleshed out over a normal pop-song timeframe (3 to 5 minutes). Apart from that, there’s room for a ton of variation. It’s a very sparse record – there’s little else beside Loyva’s dark soprano (multitracked), her synthesizer, and a drum machine, but the lack of bells-and-whistles means that her compositions take center stage. This kind of parsimony lends Loyva’s music a kind of slick, sleek quality. Rather than lumbering through these cuts, each one feels effortlessly crafted (a masterful trick, no doubt). Less is more on this album; Loyva seems to take sonic cues from Nico’s chilling organ opus The Marble Index, but not emotional ones. Rather than the Bergmanesque, nightmarish quality of Marble Index, Moons of Neptune has pleasant moments. Even the more unsettling moments – “Blood + Sand,” “Sisu” – don’t terrify in the way that Nico does. That’s a credit, not a knock: her voice is flat-out gorgeous, and it’s a pleasure to listen to.
This is not a pop album, per se; there are choruses, there are hooks, but they don’t take center stage the way they would on other pop records. That’s not to say that the songs are subpar: far from it. Kellarissa knows what she’s doing, and she does it better than most people working in her territory. “Flatlands” is even radio-friendly. But unlike a lot of pop songs, you can’t fast-forward to the chorus – or even to another verse – without missing something interesting. Overall, one of my favorite releases of the semester, if not my favorite.
RIYL: Zola Jesus, Juliana Barwick, Nico’s Marble Index