An intriguing debut album on the No Pain In Pop label by Karen Gwyer, following her EP on Patten's Kaleidoscope label last year. The press release makes much of the fact that this record was created while Karen was pregnant with her first child - personally I think this is rather a weird and possibly sexist thing to highlight, but it does allow you to wonder whether her physical state hindered or enabled the creative process, and if the resultant record is more warm and organic in temperament than it might otherwise have been. Gwyer has said of the process "I went into overdrive recording, just trying to make something that measured up to the significance of the start of a new life", and she has certainly created something to be proud of.
The weight of influences in this record is immense - from a childhood in Iowa and Michigan, learning cello, violin and viola as the offspring of two concert cellists, through a teenage love of house and techno music, then a move to New York at 17 and then finally to London - but it feels as though she has been able to distill the essence of these influences down to the bare minimum, the core DNA if you like. There are tracks on here such as 'Pikku Kokki' that could almost work as lullabies for her new child, while others like 'Waukon' are slightly menacing, with a dark undercurrent that would not guarantee a good night's sleep. There is, perhaps understandably, a womb-like quality to the record - if you listen to it all the way through it wraps you up in cotton wool, engulfs you in the sound of a muffled heartbeat, and comforts you in its embrace. It's not really a 'going out' record, but sink into it in a darkened room with a glass of something stron and you'll be richly rewarded.
'Needs Continuum' is released on 25th February on No Pain In Pop records - you can pre-order it here. Watch the video for 'Pikku Kokki' below.