Lafawndah The Fifth Season Latency
The title of Lafawndah’s new record is taken from a 2015 science fantasy novel by N. K. Jemisin. In it, a planet, the Stillness, is scarred by an oppressive caste system which undergoes apocalypse after apocalypse.
Like the planetary shifts that occur on the Stillness, the Egyptian-Iranian producer’s music evokes seismic change. But if the sense of urgency of 2019’s Ancestor Boy was driven by crashing drums, here the atmospheres are quieter, sculpted from clashing chords and ominous, droning layers of tuba and trombone. The album also marks a step away from recognisable song structures, opting instead for six surreal and cinematic tracks that are dissonant, foreboding and striking.
In the past, Lafawndah has claimed that she was hesitant to place her vocal at the forefront of her music, for fear it would sound “too pretty”. That reluctance seems to have dissipated as she wields her haunting vocals – in French and English – to devastating effect. But it’s her skill at reinterpretation that remains Lafawndah’s most startling strength, with sensitive, avant-garde refashionings of work by Lili Boulanger (Old Prayer), Beverly Glenn-Copeland (Don’t Despair) and Kae Tempest (You, at the End) providing three soaring high points. A testament to Lafawndah’s theatrical vision and imagination, The Fifth Season is her most affecting work to date.