A unique Perlon record that is both extraordinarily complex and genuinely fun.
Chris Korda's new LP comes with a highly unconventional concept. "Akoko Ajeji means 'strange time' in Yoruba," she says. "All the tracks on the album are in complex polymeter, determining not only the rhythm, but the harmony." Polymeter refers to the simultaneous use of different time signatures. As Korda explains: "Each instrumental part is written in a different meter… the kick pattern could be in 4/4, the organ part in 5/4, the hi-hat in 7/4, and so on…" Korda had to re-write her MIDI sequencer to produce the album.
In an article for Say What?, Korda referenced Steve Reich's phase shift technique, which involved playing identical loops side by side at different speeds. This would amount to "the emulation of human embellishment." Akoko Ajeji is a unique addition to the Perlon catalogue, but Korda is a unique individual. A relentless critic of consumerism, she's best known outside music as the founder of the Church Of Euthanasia, a controversial sect that advocates population reduction through "suicide, abortion, cannibalism and sodomy."
You could write pages about Korda and the concept behind Akoko Ajeji without ever addressing the music. But how does it sound? As you might expect, compositions are busy, detailed and quirky. But they're not abstract. The LP is intensely musical, full of jazzy melodies that shift constantly in and out of step with each other, making it difficult for the ear to catch fixed patterns. Some of the best moments come early in tracks when musical phrases swirl meaninglessly round each other before a kick comes in, grounding the rhythm.
But you could enjoy Akoko Ajeji simply as a genuinely fun house record. If you didn't know about the polymeter, "Ala Aye" could just be a late-night piano house track and "Asiri" a thumping Detroit groover. There are moments of euphoria and emotion—the disjointed, yearning melodies of "Egungun" or "Ra Mi" stand out. This video of Perlon boss Zip playing the latter at Sunwaves has been floating around for months. It's hard to believe that such a tender dance floor moment was crafted with such methodological rigour.
The strongest moments on the LP strike this unlikely balance between experimentalism and beauty. Sometimes, though, Korda's self-imposed restraints prove insurmountable. Intricacy becomes chaos—an overabundance of competing ideas makes a few tracks forgettable. Her unfashionably clean sound could also put listeners off. It's a refusal on Korda's part to invest energy in sound design. "These days I mostly avoid manipulating timbre because it's a distraction from harmony," she's said. But this doesn't prevent certain moments from being jarring.
The paradox of using rigid new structures to break free from old ones has a long history, going back to the serialist composers of the mid-20th century who rejected traditional tonality. It's a rebellious legacy evoked by Korda when she decries the ubiquity of four-on-the-floor dance music. She is not the first house and techno producer to move beyond this structure. But Akoko Ajeji is a highly original LP, whose fleeting moments of tender beauty are made all the more stunning by their improbability.
by Max Graef Lakin
Wed / 25 Sep 2019
04. Ala Aye
06. Ra Bayi
07. Ra Mi
09. Dek Sep Bluso
10. Fazo Kanto