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Cindy
I'm Cindy Will Salmon , June 8th, 2020 08:39

Producer Kai Hugo (Palmbomen II) breathes life into semi-fictional dream pop star Cindy with vocals by Blue LoLãn

The beautiful dead girl was an ugly crime drama cliche, even before David Lynch and Mark Frost wrapped Laura Palmer in plastic in the early 90s. But one of the many interesting things about Twin Peaks was how Lynch started to identify with his doomed homecoming queen. Laura’s ghost haunted the show – sometimes metaphorically, occasionally literally. She crept back in, in visions, video camera recordings, a secret diary, and multiple doppelgängers. Where most shows would forget about their plot device corpse, Lynch wanted you to remember Laura as a person, replete with mystery and contradictions.

And so to Kai Hugo. The dutch house producer rebranded himself as Palmbomen II in 2015 and released an ace album of psychedelic acid jams on Beats In Space. He named all the tracks on that record after various minor characters from episodes of The X-Files, but one of them – ‘Cindy Savalas’ – stuck somehow.

His next album, Memories of Cindy, filled in a fictional biography. Cindy lived in the small Californian town of Carmel Vista and died in mysterious circumstances. Hugo hired actor and model Blue LoLãn to give a face and voice to the character, and she sang on a few of the tracks – notably its blistering highlight, ‘Are You Friends With Amber?’.

Now Cindy has her own album – a pretty good, shoegaze-tinged dream pop record, recorded before the character’s ‘death’, with a loose narrative about her life, loves, and heartbreaks. LoLãn is front and centre, singing and talking on every track, breathing life into a character that has become an uncanny avatar for both LoLãn and Hugo.

It’s a diversion for the producer, whose traditional murky house sound is saved for just a handful of tracks here: ‘Justin’ and the singles ‘2y 6m’ and ‘Never Let Me Go’ – joyful, Italo-infused bangers, marinated in reverb and jammed live to tape. The eerie interludes ‘Seaview Parking’ and ‘Voice Message’ are also pleasingly familiar, replete with the lush keyboard melodies that hover around the fringes of his amusingly odd YouTube videos.

The rest of the album bounces between overt pastiche – with the swing and sax of ‘New Power’ and the lovely opener ‘Another’ both sounding like unreleased Julee Cruise songs – and more adventurous moments. ‘Cousin’s Birthday Party’ is deliciously strange, with herky-jerky backing vocals pitching up and down while LoLãn sings “I feel happy” repeatedly in a monotone. Later, ‘I Love You’ has a metallic stomp and distant vocals lost in a vortex of reverb. Perhaps it’s Cindy singing to us from the afterlife.

There are some wobbles. The album slumps with ‘Mary’, a pleasant, if bland, Cocteaus-esque ballad. It's immediately followed by the plod of ‘Boyfriend’ (lyric: “You're my boyfriend” x13). But when it’s good, I’m Cindy is as inventive and exciting as anything in the Palmbomen discography. As with all his recent work, it feels like a cousin to the eerie past-inside-the-present electronica of Boards of Canada and the Ghost Box roster, though one rooted more authentically in the club scene that Hugo, with his regular all-night DJ sets, is so fond of.. I’m Cindy makes a decent case for him as a pop producer, but a stronger one for him to continue exploring the weird rabbit holes of his VHS-addled imagination.

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