LA Vampires / Maria Minerva

The Integration LP

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Not Not Fun label head Amanda Brown aka LA Vampires meets up with London-based electronic artist Maria Juur in her Maria Minerva persona in collaboration, melding their similarly twisted takes on homegrown house and electro on The Integration LP. So many of the sounds are familiar. The album starts with a rolling new jack R&B beat, fluttering synth lines float in from somewhere south of 1993, and deep house-informed basslines follow shortly behind. Juur's jittery vocals as Minerva sound like any number of forgotten divas from mid-'80s would-be club hits, dripping mysterious melodies over sultry nightlife rhythms. As familiar as all of the elements are, however, it becomes clear right away this is not a straightforward update to house and club sounds. The beats are distant to the point of sounding buried. The vocals drift through dubbed-out delay so heavy they become indiscernible. There's something incredibly fractured that spins out from the familiar starting points, to the point where The Integration LP sounds like a dream of a neon dancefloor, garbled VHS tapes playing on monitors behind the bar. Tracks like "The Immoral Mr. Tease" and "End of the World" are absolutely submerged, stopping short of complete noise as they warp R&B vocal samples over bubbly underwater synths. "Seasons Change" offers a distorted house beat as eerie vocals bounce in washy delay from speaker to speaker before a shockingly artificial (but pleasantly tight) keyboard horn section kicks in. Played back to back with even the most amateur traditional house track, any selection from this album's ten tracks would sound beamed in from some alternate plane. The murky disco of "Supercool" even points this out, going so far as to drop a lyrical reference to Black Box's club classic "Everybody Everybody." Compared to the track it's referencing, the LA Vampires/Minerva track sounds thin, drugged, and disoriented. That disoriented/disorienting feeling is much of the point of The Integration LP, though, not reproducing classic club tracks but recontextualizing them as starting points for a far stranger, more exciting new work. Somewhere closer to Ariel Pink's early cassette-recorded brainy pop but with a toe in the same meticulous after-hours electro-pop darkness of the Chromatics, The Integration LP creates its own world of distant echoes, half-remembered melodies, and creeping feelings that seem always just out of reach. The production, though anything but crisp, is brilliant in its decay, and instead of cultivating a feigned nostalgia trip, Brown and Juur create an album equal parts hypnotic, exciting, and unnerving.

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