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REIFSMA Daryl Worthington , February 13th, 2023 09:47

Polish electronic duo team up with Japanese hip hop vocalist to thrilling effect

REIFSMA is a three-person cat’s cradle. Mutating beats tangle with rap and extended vocal technique. A constant tug and pull between the three players – Polish production duo IFS and Japanese vocalist MA – stretches their tracks out into intricate, taut grooves. This tension and slack, a sense of a shapeshifting and gleefully misshapen collaboration, is there from the off. Opener ‘Heddchara’(“Not Big Deal”) begins with a crenellated orchestral sample and regal drum roll. You’re swiftly relocated from this cinematic overture as the percussion becomes synthetic and the groove more jolting. As MA picks up pace, insistent flow transforming into elastic vocalisations, the kick and snare alternate between free-wheeling forwards and considered back pedalling. As though the music is reversing to hear what MA has to convey.

A translation from the label reveals ‘Heddchara’ details a dream of a killing fish. It’s a poetic tale, a description of an island “created by dripping ink” which expands into an exploration of violence and, seemingly, the permeability between conscious and unconscious. More than a gimmick, the breaks into abstracted vocalisations in MA’s delivery carry the surreal depth of these songs. The precarity between clarity and non-verbal sounds adding colour beyond language to the worlds he creates: “Tentacles touch some points same like bewilderment by things clad in freedom.”

MA comes from Tokyo’s hip hop scene, but he’s got a penchant for eerie ululations and layering his voice into pitch shifted babbles. His 2019 album, AMA, is equal parts Raekwon and Henri Chopin. IFS is the duo of Mateusz Wysocki (who produces solo as Fischerle) and Krzysztof Ostrowski, two players from the vibrant Polish electronic underground who excel at crafting grid deforming beats.

Combined, IFS MA wind each other into beguiling geometries. The laser-focused instability of Wysocki and Ostrowski’s productions affords MA potency and space. He sculpts that room to accentuate the versatility in his voice. This music is far more unstable, dramatic and unpredictable than producer’s laying down a static loop for someone to rap over. A fact all the more surprising given these pieces were made remotely, IFS sending tracks to MA, him sending vocals back in response.

Beats and production sit in knotted symbiosis. On ‘Yaksoq’ (“Promise”), MA intones intently against a frantic synth. As the track progresses, he adds rolling chants and operatic falsettos. Mind-bending tessellations occur on ‘Uruoi’ (“Moisture”). Riding a shuffling funk akin to a robot falling down the stairs with style, drums, synths and voice dance around each other at breakneck speed without getting knotted.

Even REIFSMA’s mellowest moment, the watery ambience and levitating house-y chord of closer ‘Enshooritz’ (“The Pi”), is a relentlessly reformatting map which never allows itself to fully repeat. IFS beats are dense, MA vocals intense, but this isn’t music just designed to pummel. It’s an ultra-precise riddle unfolding in real time.