Aïsha Devi

DNA Feelings

The revolution will be spiritual, Aïsha Devi once said. She might be right, says Mollie Zhang

Opening with sweet, bright vocal textures, DNA Feelings rapidly tumbles into apprehension. Saccharine vocal pads give way to queasy saws and then they wind into one another. Opening track ‘DNA’ sets the scene for a dramatic, expansive record.

In Aïsha Devi’s second LP on Houndstooth, anxiety, unease and euphoria intertwine. The Danse Noire co-founder made it clear with 2015’s Of Matter and Spirit that spirituality has pressing, political stakes for her. As she crafts her own artistic identity, Devi advocates “unlearning the Alpha” in favour of finding your own path; it seems to have worked for Devi – her voice is singular and distinctive.

DNA Feelings continues Devi’s pursuit of transcendental sonic experiences. The record consists of cavernous spaces and ethereal, quasi-psychedelic ambience. Devi flirts with a range of processing, from auto-tune to pitch-shifting, at times dropping hints of more organic sounds. Vocals shape-shift nimbly, slithering between sweet and sour, and this ambiguity is one of the record’s strengths; another is how much more dramatic her arrangements have become since the last record.

Across DNA Feelings, she continues her experiments in marrying the organic and synthetic, producing a vivid symbiosis between the human and technological. A transhumanist bent is nothing new in electronic music, true, but the birth of new technologies demands new sounds, ideas and feelings. This record marks a cultural time where many struggle to live with our everyday technologies. Anxiety runs high, and some search for more meaningful ways to engage in our hyper-mediated, networked world. Devi’s pursuit of transcendence and spirituality is remarkable because it refuses to fall into the worn tropes of psychedelia or new wave that we’re so familiar with. It is a mesh of the euphoric and the uncomfortable, and it nimbly sidesteps any dichotomies. It’s cavernous and intimate, built by expansive drones and close whispers. The cries of ‘Light Luxury’ are dramatic and haunting, while ‘Intentional Dreams’ revolves between the melancholy and the ecstatic. Faintly rave-reminiscent synth lines rumble in the background of ‘Aetherave’, as Devi’s voice stutters and expands atop. Shimmering textures punctured by vocal fragments create a vivid image of metallic, psychedelic temples.

DNA Feelings is a beautiful follow-up to Of Matter And Spirit. Investigating what it is to be human, and how transcendency might happen today, Devi winds ideas together and crafts her own sonic spirituality.

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