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Carmen Jaci
Happy Child Kate French-Morris , April 6th, 2023 08:33

Ringtones and video game bloops collide in kaleidoscopic fashion in the new album from the French-Canadian producer

Forget a packet of Skittles — should you wish to taste the rainbow, you don’t need to look much further than the debut album from French-Canadian, Holland-based producer Carmen Jaci. On Happy Child, she sets out to recreate a childlike sense of constant exploration and wonder, an attitude all too easily lost in adulthood. Fear not, though: as hyperactive as it may be, Happy Child is no bubblegum hyperpop record, but a detailed sonic ecosystem as influenced by Stravinsky as it is Grimes, sprinkled throughout with hints of Yellow Magic Orchestra, Mira Calix, and musique concrète.

Happy Child’s eight tracks are the length of pop songs rather than electronic pieces, but these are largely instrumental compositions that jumble acoustic components (piano, flutes, violins) with playful synths and vocal samples. Percussion arrives via the careful piecing together of these sounds, rather than with live or programmed drums. Intro track 'Bubble Bath' and the following title track lay out the album’s modus operandi: to bombard the senses with delightfully different kinds of noises moving in all directions at once — electronic notes, snatches of phone ringtones, video game bloops, split-seconds of speech — a rush-hour of sound.

Luckily, any discombobulation is held together by a few things — there’s method to Jaci’s madness. Not only is the music itself a bright collage or pointillist composition of sounds, but so are the accompanying visuals. Imagine Aardman claymation, the work of Kandinsky, and the music video for Pet Shop Boys’ 1993 single 'Can You Forgive Her?', melted down together and reformed into a surreal day-glo dream world.

Repeated instruments also prevent the album from deflating like a bouncy castle, like the piano throughout 'Jeux d’eau'. On 'Danse lunaire', percussive vocal snippets — hesitant syllables, like a child grasping at speech for the first time — act as a guide through the music. Other tracks are bolstered by slightly more formal pop structures, from the tongue-clicking, candy-flossed I See, 'to oh ah eh ih ah oh', a track reminiscent of Charlotte Adigery and Bolis Pupul’s moreish 2021 single 'Haha': both use clipped vocal noises like brickwork throughout the song.

Happy Child is a short debut with the potential to extend in any direction: all-out pop, video game soundtrack, contemporary composition. And though spiky with varying sonic fragments, the album somehow maintains a play-dough pliancy. These tracks, meticulously arranged and polished yet light-hearted and free of pretension, serve as a strong introduction to Jaci’s artistic world, as she uses her formidable production skills to remind us that actually, sometimes, music only needs to be fun.