“I’m an alien / With multiple hearts. I’m an alien / With multiple fears”, that’s the line that stands out from the opening track and sets up Le Marina’s ‘Libera’.
Marina is alien to herself. Through six blunt and sparse tracks that mix nu-R&B with dystopian triphop, she confesses, reflects and recants. These are intimate songs of depression. Violent introspections, self-examinations, self-worth imposed and assumed. If this sounds bleak, it is. As bleak as it is pretty. This debut EP wants to shed light (or the lack of) on to all of our uglies inside.
Does it succeed? Mostly, yes. There’s a pitch perfect mood made of monochrome drones, drum samples and glitches that soothe while they rattle and chill. This soundscape production is faultless; ominous tones linger subtle and crooned as if teased out of worn electronics. The attention given to each creak and grimace easily translates a wide open fear. Influences cited are FKA Twigs, Tisra, and Massive Attack, thankfully there’s a lean more towards Neneh Cherry and her exquisitely brutal ‘Blank Project’ LP.
This EP knows its way around a hook, and it knows when to play light and dark. ‘Say It Sad’ pits the best of its minimalist darkness against an unburdened broken pop chorus. ‘I’ll Never Love You’ features synthpads that swell with an uncertain heading towards optimism, but those glimpses of light don’t last long. In a gratuitously moody anti-chorus we drop back right down to the title’s despair.
While ‘Dead End’ plays the best mix of all tricks so far with its moments of lushness and chill, and skip over the overcooked Trauma’, it’s the closing ‘You Decide’ that’s most mournful. Those synths move like old 80’s Casio sampled strings and they melt as they fade in to focus. The drums bounce a retro 808 bass and snare and we’re back to those true triphop roots. It’s where vocals move most freely too, all the whispering half fragile delivery throughout starts to loosen and flow with the music; they’re a part of the song, not above it.
And as convincing as all those sounds are, as hushed are the vocals that rasp with emotion through words about pain and relationships, those subjects don’t quite find their grounding. They’re big, they’re important, deserving, but somehow their core seems too small. I’ve got the sound of the hurt but don’t feel it up close, even though the design’s almost flawless.