Jessy Lanza: Oh No

Can Jessy Lanza cash in on the success of the sound she helped create?

- If Canadian purveyor of experimental synth pop Jessy Lanza had released her second full length Oh No two years ago, I’d be writing a very different review. Oh No follows Lanza’s 2013 quirk-filled, off-beat r’n’b debut Pull My Hair Back, and luck would have it the sound she was a pioneer of has soared in value with artists like Kelela or Sui Zhen and even Dev Hynes cashing in. Whereas those artists have drawn different conclusions with the same building blocks of sound, Lanza has doubled down on the simple 808 synth experiment.

This, to some degree, has worked on Oh No. The pared back composition feels like a reverse engineered banger. The vocal lines and beats could be given the slick production of commercial pop, but Lanza has refrained from the gloss. The sparse production let’s her voice bubble and pop, but the use of her upper register to the exclusion of all else keeps even the most danceable tracks from taking flight. Single VV Violence is a fast-paced dance track constructed on pc music references, and retains the glitchiness which made Pull My Hair Back so interesting. If you’re waiting for Lanza to tease out these idiosyncratic hooks on Oh No, well, you’ll be waiting a while. In fact I waited the whole record for something to sink my teeth into.

In fact most things that do stand out about the record are reference points to other artists; from the FKA Twigs style vocals on I Talk BB or the hollowed out trap on Vivica harking back to the disparate and trail-blazing production across Kelela’s 2013 mixtape Cut 4 Me. These moments weigh the record down with the mental back-dating of different style points to the artists who have really popularised the sound Lanza helped establish, however Oh No has its sticking points. The title track pins punchy melodies to a tumbling drum loop which graduates to a full on synth keys solo, which is nice because it’s one of the few builds that actually completes the tension/release dynamic. The jungle beat syncopation on It Means I Love You half almost feels like Lanza has grabbed onto something she can flesh out, but instead it was a mid-record punctuation point which fizzled shortly after.

If Oh No followed through on just a few of the ideas laid out on Pull My Hair Back it would have been a great record, the talent is clearly there. It’s just that other artists were much faster to tease those out and commercialise them to great effect, so I’m left lamenting what could have been.

- Grace Pashley.

Album Details

Album Title: Oh No
Artist: Jessy Lanza
Record Label: (Hyperdub / Redeye)