You might say Roza Terenzi, aka Katie Campbell, was always destined to become a music producer. Her father, Murray Campbell, was part of the electronic dub group Beatworld. At age nine, she released her first song, “Cut the Crap Rap”, a playful, humorous rap ditty which can still be heard on Bandcamp. Now, in her early 20s, she’s had a string of successful EPs behind her, including last year’s Let’s Ride. The EP was her most complete work to date, full of 1990s-style breakbeats, quirky house rhythms, and dreamy electro. She takes things up a notch on Modern Bliss, her debut LP for Planet Euphorique Records. Campbell’s sound here features more layers and more punch than any of her EPs.
The first track, “Jungle in the City”, is a direct ode to Beatworld, taking its name from the group’s 1998 album The Jungle in the City. It’s downtempo on an epic scale, pristine and aggressive at once. A raucous, pulsating hip-hop groove drives the song, but it’s surrounded by shimmering pads and distant, wordless female vocals. The percussion has a liquid sound like the drums have all been waterlogged, which only heightens the pristine feeling. Few tracks go so hard and still sound so delicate.
That is a theme throughout Modern Bliss: even the most aggressive moments somehow feel soothing. Are they supposed to lull you, or make you want to dance? Most of the time, they make you want to do both. Take the title track, which features vocals from Barcelona-based producer Ivy Barkakati. Terenzi employs a banging 4/4 techno beat as Barkakati delivers a spoken-word mantra of “Clarity, intention, direction/ exactly where I need to be / My thoughts create reality,” over and over for five minutes. Barkakati’s soft, half-whispered delivery offsets the main groove beautifully. “Total Eclipse” features metallic percussion and a thick, funky bassline, balanced by twinkling synths and distant male vocals that have been pitch-shifted to sound extra low and guttural. Tracks like these find a perfect equilibrium between serenity and aggression, lush soundscapes, and four-on-the-floor techno.
Not every song captures this balance perfectly, however. Some tracks suffer from outright plainness or lack of variation. The groove on “Yo-Yo” is led by shakers, hi-hats, and probably the album’s most melodic bassline, but there’s little going on around it. “Eternal Lust” may be the album’s weakest link; here, we have some gorgeous breathy vocals and another beautiful murmuring bass, but for a song that pushes the nine-minute mark, it doesn’t really do much. There isn’t enough variation to keep things interesting. The main groove fades around the four-minute mark, like the song will change direction, but then the groove just goes on and on, with few details added. Such tracks don’t exactly fail; they simply feel dispensable and don’t add anything new.
In the second half, the best songs are often the ones that go hardest, such as “That Track (Rewired Mix)” and “My Reality Cheque Bounced (feat. DJ Zozi)”. These tracks more than make up for some of the album’s blander moments. “That Track” features a clapping beat playing over an odd, off-kilter rap melody that—despite being almost unintelligible (aside from the opening lyric, “Here I come”)—is easily the catchiest moment of the record. “My Reality Cheque Bounced”, the album’s final track, is probably it’s most club-ready. Terenzi employs a searing jungle groove on top of squeaky-clean synths, sinister bass, and a sample of indecipherable children’s vocals. It’s a song that sounds retro and futuristic at once like it could’ve been made in the 1990s or some time years from now.
All in all, Modern Bliss is a mixed bag that—though it occasionally stumbles—shows flashes of greatness. There are enough bangers to offset the moments when the album gets too plodding and laborious. If the album proves anything, it proves that Terenzi can take on many sounds at once—jungle, dub, trance, deep house, and classic Detroit techno—without sacrificing any flair or any nuance. The album may not break any barriers, but it signifies an artist who can, and very well might. Modern Bliss is a testament to Katie Campbell’s massive potential. One can only hope for greater things from here.