Electronic music

Haai: Baby, We’re Ascending review – rich, haunting vibe from a party star | Electronic music

Over the past few years, Sydney-born DJ, producer and songwriter Haai – real name Teneil Throssell – has become something of an underground star in her adopted hometown of London.

A two-year resident at Brixton club Phonox, Throssell’s sets are renowned for their blistering pace and euphoric peaks, largely comprising house and breakbeat techno, with stints in other more idiosyncratic styles. Perpetually wearing sunglasses and seemingly always sporting a cheeky smile, she’s a supernaturally talented party starter, an intuitive, crowd-focused DJ with an expansive taste.

‘A supernaturally talented party-starter’ … Haai. Photography: Imogene Barron

The many dance music institutions that have praised her (she broadcast on Rinse FM, had her BBC Essential Mix named the Essential Mix of the Year and broadcast a set live on Boiler Room) are a testament to her reputation. growing as a player, fleet -foot selector. So it only makes sense that her debut album, Baby, We’re Ascending, arrives with uncommon anticipation, both in the UK and Australia.

Any good DJ, however, knows it’s good to keep the audience guessing – and the album represents something of a left turn. While it still has its fair share of breathless, high-frequency techno, the best moments are watery, overwhelming you with the invigorating coolness of morning tides. Reflecting the loneliness Throssell felt after his difficult touring slate went blank in the early months of the pandemic, it’s a record that finds its highest points when it does the least, with the ambient interludes offering a new Seductive ride in Haai’s reputation in the club scene.

The final song on the album, Tardigrade, is a high point: above a wash of distorted trance synths and cavernous, crackling drums, it sings of a relationship that seems halfway between fracture and repair: “No one knows / No one cares / We’re both breathing is reason enough for you to love me back…” Vast and rich, it’s a ballad without excess, Throssell’s lyrics being left suspended in the air as vapour. Equally haunting is Bodies of Water, in which Throssell sings to a dizzying, dull house beat: “Somewhere, on a brand new day / In a pool of love / I lay / From this I take / The loneliness has spared you”.

There are floor-filling dance floor signifiers here – vocal samples set at warp speed, a denouement with a frenetic breakbeat – but for the most part, Throssell holds back in favor of open space. These songs, along with the record’s equally fuzzy title track, are smart and seductive, creating something organic and naturalistic that mirrors the impressionistic feel of Throssell’s lyrics, which use references to oceans, forests and lakes. to channel the serenity and comfort of nature. world. Throssell uses simple metaphors that are often vivid and effective; on the title track, for example, she compares a lover’s attraction to the tides: “I’m caught in your wave / They’re crashing on me.”

This icy, botanical approach to electronic music places Throssell in a burgeoning milieu of young producers – many of them women – looking to explore the natural world through techno. Recent records such as Kelly Lee Owens’ Inner Song and Kedr Livanskiy’s Liminal Soul have attempted to reach similar places, with Owens attempting to address the climate crisis on her record, and Kedr Livanskiy’s producer Yana Kedrina seeking to encourage communion with the natural world on its own. .

On songs like Bodies of Water and Baby, We’re Ascending, Haai’s music is also explicitly nature-focused — and undeniably one-track. But it creates a kind of tension in the album as a whole, between the focused, vibe-oriented tracks and the more boilerplate dance heaters like Pigeon Barren and FM. When it reaches its maximum pumping, Baby, We’re Ascending tends to sag; these songs sound slightly free, even unenthusiastic, next to their fiery, amorphous cousins.

Occasionally, Throssell strikes a balance between the two warring halves of Baby, We’re Ascending. Orca, one of the last songs on the disc, pits minimal racing techno against a jaw-dropping ambient coda. Gilded with jarring strings, it feels like the sunrise after a long night, Throssell’s ultra-saturated synths sweetening the song’s frozen intro. It’s a track that finds Throssell bringing together the best parts of every side of her music – ascending, as she promised.