The rise of alternative / indie / whatever-the-hell-you-want-to-call-it R&B frequently borders on farce, with its growing crop of mostly white artists regularly finding astounding new ways to desexualize an urban genre known for its libidinous content. Outside the willful depravity of the Weeknd or the consequential agony of Frank Ocean, these artsy eunuchs seem perfectly content with lust being reduced to a nuisance akin to post-nasal drip. Coming out roughly nine months after How to Dress Well’s Love Remains, arguably the patient zero of this infectious assault on the red-blooded American carnality, Joel Ford and Daniel Lopatin’s Channel Pressure LP was an especially sterile batch of quiet storm Jello molds and ‘80s pop slop. (Indeed, Lopatin’s grandstanding Oneohtrix Point Never project embodies the literal opposite of sex.) Sometimes crystalline, sometimes craggy, the record basked in its antiseptic atmosphere, as enamored with its own textural intricacies as a cretin with his own gas.
Immediately, however, Ejecta comes across wildly different from Ford’s prior projects, sexual in an almost feral and even terrifying way. Much of that first impression, of course, has to do with Dominae’s album artwork. A nude beauty on her side, propped on an elbow, faces away from the camera and into a near darkness that evokes a sort of abyss. It’s a dangerous attraction in the David Lynch tradition, a femme fatale with the mythic tendency to drag a man down to hell. Critics and music lovers alike are rightfully chastized for traversing the musical minefield with a hardwired malegaze. But in cases such as this, when the content seems hellbent on titillation and provocation, to sidestep it in some mushmouth attempt to be as inoffensive as a church mouse seems both unreasonable as well as dishonest. It’s hardly a stretch of the imagination to imagine the term ejecta, a reference to volcanic eruption, in a sexual context. Clearly the duo intends to pique and whet well before note one.
Notably the bare Dominae cover model, Leanne Macomber, is also the artist herself, the other half of Ejecta. Having spent time as part of Neon Indian, here she takes center stage, her echo chamber coo often the most dominant instrument on these economical, electro numbers. The youthful indiscretions of Larry Tee’s clash clowns have given way with age to a more mature, decidedly adult value set. Macomber, either through character or autobiography, delivers one potent performance after another, from the scorned siren of “Mistress” to the claustrophobic fixations of “Small Town Girl.”
Despite the nagging, ubiquitous tonal darkness, Dominae nonetheless clamors for club play, albeit in a discotheque two decades or so ago. With synth stabs reminiscent of late-80s New Order or its underrated side project The Other Two, dancefloor beacon “Afraid Of The Dark” beckons the hips, while “Jeremiah” and “Silver” bubble up like vintage mid-tempo Erasure. The spare construction of these ten evocative tracks does occasionally teeter towards absurdity, the neo-gothic keyboard tinkling on “Eleanor Lye” with all the latent charms of a Falco karaoke retread. Yet Macomber’s steadily otherworldly ether balances that pompous pomp for a hallowed New Wave tent revival worth getting excited over.