Harouki Zombi, ‘Objet Petit A’ – Album Review
Canadian surreal pop, whispered French nothings, British New Wave, Japanese undead: It's all there in the sexual Frankenstein cabaret of Harouki Zombi, the shared project of Nina Barnes and Orenda Fink. The duo mark their first release with ‘Objet Petit A,’ a danceable, strange and awesome EP that provides unexpected uplift, both to the heart and the booty.
To hear their tumblr tell it, Zombi is a “hedonistic celebration for the fallen empire” (we’re guessing the empire in question is the United States), an amalgam of DJ, visual and performance art. Barnes is a sometime member of Of Montreal, of which her husband Kevin is the ringmaster; Fink is one-half of the dream-pop duo Azure Ray. There’s a feminine sexual menace here, a kind of Lolita-as-directed-by-Sam Raimi tension shooting through each of the EP’s four original tracks and two remixes.
The opening title track is all sinew and foment, with cryptic, dark and slightly ridiculous lines like, “Just take one of your wires / it’s not heavy enough unless you open your eyes” and, “I’ve been crashing almost every night / and it pains me to see I’m not even bruised." In at least one instance -- the assertion, "I'm a dinosaur amongst machines" -- the group's this-must-be-Google-translated sense of nonsequitor works rather well, and the song, like the video that accompanies it, is sexual and strange and vaguely masochistic -- and solidly done.
Beginning with a sexy bit of throat-clearing and a bunch of French vocals I don't understand, ‘Soldier’s Gun’ is a clap-trap-laden dance anthem ready for the Ibiza of the apocalypse. It's somewhere in the neighborhood of the Knife, with tropical faux-steel drums propelling a soaring fist-pumper of a chorus: “You know that I’m more than a soldier’s gun.” The track is so damn catchy that it’s surprising it’s not the lead single -- though that may be because its pop sound would cost them cool points. No matter: This is crank-your-speakers dance, with a fair strain of foreboding thrown in.
A tick later, ‘Vacated Hunters’ suggests an Of Montreal influence, opening with clever percussion and breaking halfway through for a strange dialogue between the vocalists. The synths here are more driving than on the previous tracks, bludgeoning the listener with their strength, building and building with the gang chorus that’s capped off with “lying motionless, we don’t do s---.” It’s pretty, but it’s rough, too.
The final original, ‘The Swamp Theme,’ has the hip-hop thud of MIA’s most aggressive productions, accented by breaths. The lyrics are surprisingly direct “Go get your swagger on” echoing against “We’ll make your body move,” punctuated by the pitch-shifted drawl of the words "Harouki Zombi."
Two remixes of ‘Objet Petit A’ close out the EP. The ‘Rewards’ mix is lighter than original -- a change that benefits the song, granting room to the ethereal vocals of the singers. In contrast, the ‘Deniallabs’ cut hangs heavy, jungle drums shuddering in the background, giving the track a much different texture, though it remains catchy. Sweet and sour and sorrowful, ‘Objet Petit A’ is a promising taste of a collaboration between two gifted, goofy and gloomy artists -- just in time for Halloween.