Marina Herlop – Nekkuja (PAN 141)
While she was waiting for her last album ‘Pripyat’ to be released, Catalan composer and producer Marina Herlop was restless. She was concerned about her (by then) uncertain music career, and felt emotionally unmoored. “Some days I used to sit on the balcony of my flat to catch some sun,” she explains, “I would close my eyes and start visualizing myself as a gardener, pulling out purple weeds from the soil, every bad memory or emotion I wanted to expulse being one of the plants.” As the days dragged on, the fantasy deepened, and Herlop discovered that parts of the garden was withering; the energy she had been putting into the non-musical side of her life had seeped into her creative pasture and poisoned it. She knew what she needed to do to overcome the blight: plant some seeds and tend to her art to help it blossom and bloom once again.
‘Nekkuja’ is a place for Herlop’s warmest, sweetest sentiments to rise to the surface and crack through the topsoil. She describes the record as a way for her to seek and affirm inner light, and it’s undoubtedly her brightest, poppiest statement to date. The forward-thinking, experimental touches that nourished ‘Pripyat’ are still present, but blessed with a level of positivity that’s rare to find in a scene so entranced by darkness and melancholy. Skittering fragments of ornate acoustic instrumentation provide a serene welcome to ‘Busa’, punctuated by precise electronic processes that shuttle the sound towards abstraction and fantasy. Herlop’s voice grows over the tangle of sounds from a childish giggle into a layered, matted mantra, sounding passionate, hopeful and full of energy. The vitality spills over into ‘Cosset’, where she wraps powerful motifs around ricocheting beats and dramatic piano rolls.
Herlop’s garden opens up dramatically on ‘Karada’ when bucolic field recordings crack like sunlight over harp plucks and willowy vocals. Her voice seems to bend around the whooshing streams and chittering of birds as if she’s singing to the manicured land itself – a utopian paradise that Herlop employs as a metaphor for the creative process. In contrast to the view that an artist is an isolated genius or an idol to be worshipped, Herlop believes that the garden helps us see the process as closer to devotion or perseverance. A gardener brings order to the wild chaos of the outdoors, collaborating with nature to arrange something vibrant and enduring. Blending familiar sounds with fanciful concepts, Herlop traces an imaginary garden, imploring us to wander and wonder. And by the album’s billowing final track ‘Babel’, it’s flowered into a flush of pruned vocal phrases and delicately groomed orchestral rushes, painted in orange, green, blue and red.
Composed, produced and recorded by Marina Herlop
Vocals by Marina Herlop
Mixed and mastered by Joker
Artwork by Mati Klarewin