Song review: I, idol – ‘Post-Human, Platform Shoes’ and ‘Xerox Me, Baby’
by Thomas Blake
I, idol is an audiovisual recording project comprising three full-time members – Nina, MC Flesh and 3 – and a host of guests. They are from Swindon. This much we know. Other than that, the biographical information is scant, and the wish for anonymity palpable. The ‘about’ section on their Facebook page resembles the aphasic ramblings of a robot in therapy – twisted binary and cat-on-a-keyboard strings of symbols – and homemade masks are de rigueur in the few photographs that exist of the trio.
A sense of mystery is an admirable thing to nurture, particularly in a time where so much art is about the self. But a sense of mystery will only get you so far. To maintain that mystery and still create art that connects is the difficult trick, but I, idol have managed it. They have released two tracks (or rather ‘video singles’) in 2017, and they are both highly original and scarily brilliant.
The first, ‘Post-Human, Platform Shoes’, mixes retro-futurist minimal techno with blasts of industrial noise, inside which lurks, half-hidden, the glimmer of a beautiful pop song. There are shades of Holly Herndon, Laurel Halo and even Aphex Twin, but the overall effect is one of collage, with rock, pop and hip-hop motifs grafted with laudable perfectionism onto the thrillingly modern bedrock. Like Herndon’s tracks, much of the content seems to examine the increasingly blurred lines between technology, humanity and personal politics. But there is something decidedly British about I, idol, particularly the on-point rap courtesy of Twitch Throat. Throughout, Nina’s vocals hush and swirl, at times approaching the near-glossolalia of Elizabeth Fraser, at others the treated, medicated detachment and repetition of early Julia Holter. It’s an alluring mix.
Second up, and preserving the comma-love, is ‘Xerox Me, Baby’. Here the trio’s transatlantic influences are more tangible. Nina’s vocals float like a soul-pop diva stranded in the technological ether before a mad snippet of electric guitar gives a Zappa/Funkadelic vibe to the whole thing. Again, there is a verse from a guest rapper, and this one is a slice of pure daisy age brilliance, a lament for the loss of originality nailed to one of the most original bits of music I’ve heard this year.
And there lies I’ idol’s brilliance. Some artists are truly original. Some have a healthy political awareness. Some are blessed with individual talent. Some have an unerring ear for the great sounds of the past or the possibilities of the future. I, idol’s diversity, their fearlessness and perhaps their youth have given them the tools to attempt to be all of these things. Taken together, these two tracks are a short, exhilarating jolt. With any luck, there will be plenty more to come.