There’s something exciting about the debut album by Mourning Coup, the project of Chandra Melting Tallow. Baby Blue isn’t an album that will receive consistent radio play, if at all, as her experimental pop is founded on Tallow’s background in the visual arts. Listening to the album definitely gives the feeling of being in the middle of an art house or watching an exhibition at the Guggenheim. Her music is challenging yet innovative. It unexpectedly captivates due to the soothing and ethereal nature of the melodies. In many ways, Baby Blue has the drawing power of some of Björk’s most experimental leanings, integrating electronic and synth with a range of other genres and cultural sounds.
Whereas Björk has been influenced by her Icelandic heritage and folklore, Tallow, who is of mixed ancestry, finds inspiration in many areas, not least of which is her Aboriginal culture. From the Siksika First Nation located southeast of Calgary, Tallow now resides in Coast Salish just outside of Vancouver and has established herself as an emerging multi-faceted artist, including sculpture and performance art. She has now expanded herself, translating her visual and physical art into an audio showcase.
However, Mourning Coup isn’t a one-off project nor one hastily developed. For five years, Tallow has been writing music and attempting to find the perfect collection to display – a collection that is awe-inspiring. The first four tracks are dark and dense a la Chelsea Wolfe, but Tallow’s Aboriginal heritage can heard, in particular in the spiritual opener “I Will Never Die” and the industrial-infused “Somnium”. “Saturn Sakura”, meanwhile, is hypnotic and mind-altering brilliant, as Tallow integrates elements of trance and traditional Japanese textures to create a song that can be best described as post-modern kabuki. “Song of Pomengrates” is symphonic and thrilling, as the song relies upon a masterful use of pace and strings to build the drama. It is an approach that Björk has mastered throughout her career, recognizing that not only is the music important to develop the ambiance but tempo and timing must be equally given importance.
Just as you think everything on the album will lead to another post-modern art lesson, Tallow surprises with the breathtaking and scintillating “Baby Blue”. The title track is a groovy, electro-pop song that blends the infectious qualities of Grimes with the brilliant melodies of Devonte Hynes (a.k.a. Blood Orange). “Burn One for the Saints” is another mid-tempo synth-pop tune. It’s a warm, embracing track that is steeped in late ’70s and early ’80s pop music. Whether intentionally or not, the song screams of Ziggy Stardust-era David Bowie, although some may hear a blend of really early Depeche Mode and Eurythmics.
While a number of influences can be heard, the amalgamation of sounds and the innovation involved in the Mourning Coup project comes closest to what Björk did 22 years ago when she released her critically acclaimed Debut. It was a groundbreaking album, helping to usher in the era of dance music and showing that experimental pop wasn’t just confined to art houses but could be accessible to all. But more importantly, Björk international success opened up doors for a new generation of Icelandic artists. With Baby Blue, Tallow could similarly open new doors for experimental pop artists around the world as well as for future Aboriginal musicians. Baby Blue will likely not get the same profile as Björk’s record, but it is an important record. In a time where electronic and EDM dominate, the Mourning Coup project shows that there is still plenty of creativity and diversity in music, and the music, while experimental, can still be captivating.
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