The full-length debut album from Kim Pflaum, aka Laumė, 2020's Waterbirth, finds the New Zealand-born songwriter embracing a thoughtfully blissed-out mix of early-'80s-influenced soul, house music, and synth-based pop. It's a sound she first explored under the name Madeira on her 2016 EP Bad Humors, and to some degree before that as a founding member of the indie pop outfit Yumi Zouma. She has also collaborated on similar electronic-oriented projects with artists like Boycrush, Swimgood, Zimmer, and others, all of which worked to inform and broaden the scope of her own music. She brings much of this past experience to bear on Waterbirth, utilizing richly textured analog keyboards, electronic beats, and her own multi-tracked vocals. Part of what makes the record so appealing is Laumė's ability to move easily between artful experimentation and more straightforward jams. Cuts like "Darkside," "Spells (Oedipusi)," and "Neglect" display Laumė's knack for combining pop hooks with a smooth neon aesthetic that smartly evokes the '80s production style of Stock, Aitken & Waterman. Conversely, on tracks like "Voyeurs" and "Villains," Laumė indulges in soft falsetto vocals and shimmering keyboards, a combination that brings to mind the equally nostalgic soundscapes of artists like M83 and Washed Out. There's an intimacy to Waterbirth, with many tracks often sounding like they might have been recorded live first and only later built out with carefully added layers. It's a raw emotionality she carries over to the lyrics, singing about being a lonely teenager on "Shy Kid," detailing her deep insecurities and heartaches on "Darkside," and as on "Best You," learning how to love and care for yourself. She sings, "Can I please have my moment? Build me a cenotaph." Waterbirth is the sound of Laumė building her own emotional pop architecture and discovering herself as an artist.
AllMusic Review by Matt Collar