Monday, April 15th, 2019

Lafawndah – Storm Chaser

From the Egyptian-Iranian artist’s debut Ancestor Boy


Alfred Soto: The drums are the stars, so much so that Lafawndah should step aside for the lissome clatter. On occasion she has made her universalist maxims signify by themselves, though.

Nortey Dowuona: The steely, heavy drums slam against the heart, freezing as they fly from the sky and shatter, then melt into the chibi synths and rumbling bass, prompting either fear or acceptance. It all compliments the oblique lyrics written by Nick Weiss and Lafawndah, which show a feeling of awe and fervor, and the piercing and constructing vocal production — especially on the lyric, “Whenever I’m cold” — leading a bristling croon through the warm, tumbling production: a lonely voice pleading with the wind and thanking the bullet rain.

Will Adams: “Storm Chaser” booms with the militant drama of Dawn Richard or Onuka at their best, and Lafawndah’s powerful voice is more than up to the challenge. Unfortunately, repeat listens allow the bombast to become familiar, leaving room to look closer at the vague, self-serious lyrics.

Iris Xie: Back in late 2017, when I was fortunate enough to see Kelela live, I was not prepared for her opener, Lafawndah, at all. We had an hour-long set of her being so raw and unfiltered on stage that I felt like I was being taken apart and left to re-assemble by the end. When she thanked us and left the stage, the crowd murmured in both admiration and exhaustion. So listening to “Storm Chaser” is an interesting experience, for she pulled back on that rawness slightly as to better channel her own inner connection to the chaotic, unkempt parts of nature and the world. This results in a far more cohesive sound that takes you on a journey and allows you to come back together in the end. Lafawndah’s direction is represented by layers of instrumentation, which have an expert flow between whip-like crystalline percussions, fluttering synths like the slowed flapping of bird wings, and echoing drums that sound like waves crashing. They oscillate and pull in and back out around her vocals, which alternate between sharp melodies and catchy R&B hooks. I do think she could have leaned in more in several parts of the track here, for there are also some good and slightly edgy transitions here, with “Don’t turn around, don’t turn around and miss her” landing straight into pre-chorus. There are also some instances of evocative images with Lafawndah’s intense cadence at “she seals her fate.” Speaking of leaning in harder to Lafawndah’s sound, I’m going to be honest: it really does sound like a Björk homage here sometimes, especially to the “Biophilia” album, but instead of immediately writing Lafawndah off, it makes me wonder about my own limited knowledge. Is this due to how they have a similar praxis in exploring themes of spiritual and emotional focuses on nature and connection to their ancestors, with sticky hooks, percussion, and ambient instrumentation? Is Björk’s output and cultural notoriety so prominent that we don’t really hear other examples of musicians exploring similar inspirations and making their own take on working within the same sphere? Lastly, is this an issue of how this type of work is often slotted into the “weird but cool” category and now they have their token faerie, we don’t really hear the others? Or is Lafawndah really just not doing things that are that much different from Björk? I ask these questions mostly because it makes me think about how much more I have to learn about more experimental and genre-blending musicians and not just stop at Björk, and the issue of representation regarding all other pop music that isn’t allowed to grow and expand into a whole genre in itself. I’d like to hear and hear more songs with these elements. Aside from that, my only major desire is that I wish this was six minutes long total to express the full potential of the track, but I understand that this is supposed to be a pop single in length. But after hearing Lafawndah’s work with the inimitable Midori Takada on “Le Renard Bleu,” I wonder what would have been revealed in the song were more time and space allotted. 

Tobi Tella: Strange, unexpected, and other-worldly. Part of me wanted some more backbone rather than the completely free-flowing experimental structure, but at a certain point I was completely enveloped into Lafawndah’s sonic world.

David Moore: Starts intently and imperiously Björkish, but that’s a red herring, or at least a limited frame. The better referent, ultimately, is Dawn Richard, though Lafawndah is more futuristic cosmopolitanism than cosmopolitan futurism. You can hear a little bit of everywhere and nowhere, lots of space, veering left turns, a dune buggy joyride. 

Edward Okulicz: More free-association collection of sounds, lyrics and melody than anything coherent, but the thunderclap drums are stormy indeed. Lafawndah has a powerful presence and ties it all together through the force of her mystique. She conjures an intriguing figure in her words while making me intrigued about her own character. 

Reader average: [8] (1 vote)

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