Charlotte Adigéry Radiates Underground Coolness on 'Zandoli'
On her EP Zandoli, Charlotte Adigéry brings life to skeletal beats and shows serious potential.
8 February 2019
Zandoli, the new EP from Belgian-Martiniquaise artist Charlotte Adigéry, radiates underground coolness. Her vocals are understated, as are collaborator Bolis Pupul's skeletal beats. Her lyrics include Antillean Creole sayings (the chants on "Paténipat" are mnemonics for certain traditional dance rhythms), extol the artistic uses of artificial hair, and reference aspects of sexuality that are less than romantic: latex, for example, or middle-aged women exploring the world of sex tourism. Retro club vibes and trip-hop sounds mesh with modern minimalism in a way that makes the whole EP delightfully difficult to place in time.
Cool though they are, the album's DIY vibes are a double-edged sword. On Zandoli, beats rarely drop. Adigéry has a tendency to make music that builds and builds -- but with no payoff, no release. In and of itself, this is neither a virtue nor a vice; after all, so much of life is aimless, and each one of Adigéry's tracks is some specific slice of life. In fact, it makes perfect sense on tracks like "High Lights" and "B B C", where lyrics are central and the slow burn keeps them moving forward at a walking pace. On the other three tracks -- "Paténipat", "Cursed and Cussed", and "Okashi" -- the energy feels like it wants to climb higher, but it can only drive so far before each song simply ends.
That flaw stands out because there is, in fact, a lot to love about the five tracks that make up Zandoli. Adigéry commands attention, sounding uniformly effortless with every song. There is variety; "Paténipat" is solid and earthy, while "Okashi" has a dreamy quality as Adigéry's voice rises, giving us longer, higher notes. "High Lights", the aforementioned ode to wigs and weaves, is a hypnotic stunner that delves into the ways that appearance can serve as an expression of identity, a rebuttal to ideas of the outward as superficial. As Adigéry noted upon releasing the track as a single, hair is often a feature of particular emphasis in global black culture, and in singing about it, she speaks from both personal and collective cultural experience.
When Adigéry teams up with Bolis Pupul, they make a sound completely their own, and while it may be rough at times, the outcome is original, distinctly theirs. An EP this short is perfect for testing the waters, and this reviewer is ready to stop wading and dive straight into the deep end. Charlotte Adigéry has innovative concepts and a wealth of style, and she and Pupul together have the kind of potential that makes a relatively new electronic act exciting, even in a sea of young upstart electronic acts. She does not bow down to the status quo or fit into standard pop molds. At the same time, her quirks do not feel contrived. Zandoli puts on display the work in progress of an artist still experimenting, still building, constantly leaping outside the box. Certainly, Adigéry draws her Caribbean roots into her aesthetic, but more than anything, she relies on her own instincts -- and those of her creative partners -- in producing her music.