Album Review – Felicita – Hej!

For all the articles proclaiming PC Music to be ‘divisive’ since its inception around 6 years ago, it’s had a remarkable amount of staying power. In other words, PC Music won. They’ve successfully bled into the mainstream that they were originally maybe/maybe not critiquing (who knows!).

hej by felicita

I understand why some people find their quasi-accelerationist-rave-pop too sweet and sticky to resist, but I’ve always perceived the label as incredibly self congratulatory, like a comedian shaking a donation bucket in your face after every one-liner. Sure, it’s funny and interesting at first, but after a while you’d just rather wait in the foyer ’til it’s over. Emily Bick writing for Wire in 2016 put it best – she saw PC Music as “built on a pop framework that overemphasises the appeal of domination, narcissism and cruelty. What may have appeared as an arch deconstruction originally now seems to be an embrace, rather than a critique, of bullying capitalist pop and a nasty faux-populism.”

Felicita pulls from much the same sound-world that we’re used to now with PC Music – hyper-malleable synths that jerk and stretch like softened plastic – albeit with a greater emphasis on choppy collage rather than bombastic synth anthems. This diversity of compositional types is where Hej! could have succeeded better as an LP proper, as some stylistic shifts suffer from a lack of execution. The aim of the album according to Felicita was to make “bold and experimental pop, combining musical feeling with robotics”, but a lot of the time the links between these concepts feel too tenuous, and as a result come across as lethargic and restless.

There are some genuinely intriguing moments here. ‘Soft Power II’, the second half of the eponymous dance piece debuted at the Barbican in 2017, has real depth; there’s flowing and cascading piano phrases, with the occasional disruptive burst of sound folding out from underneath like a Grouper track zhuzhed up by Foodman. Also, penultimate track ‘Night Soil (Fade Out)’ is like a vaporwave track having a bad dream in the middle of a supernova. Where the album unfortunately gets it wrong is in some aspects of the compositions themselves. ‘Marzipan’, despite containing a chilling vocal performance by Caroline Polachek of a Polish nursery rhyme, is completely listless and self-serious, the patterns of notes not really moving in any direction, hanging in the air like a lifeless puppet. ‘Coughing Up Amber’ is the same hyperreal crash and clang that SOPHIE essentially mastered with ‘Hard’ in 2014, but served undercooked, although it does descend into a pleasant drone before being cut off by crass cheesy rave synths in ‘Elena’.

There are some lovely moments on this LP, and is certainly one of the least obnoxious and pompous PC Music releases out there, but the lofty ambitions of the record never take off. The seeds of something genuinely bold are there, but need more time to germinate and take on a life of their own, than rather being tethered to the general mise-en-scène of the label. Fans of Oneohtrix Point Never, Ash Koosha and Fatima Al Qadiri will find something to love in Felicita’s debut, but the delivery of the constant stylistic channel flipping is what makes it ultimately a frustrating listen.