As colorful as the rainbow of the title, RNBW is a joyous clash of genres: dance, drone, ethereal, industrial, and even noise. Refreshingly original, this debut full-length does much to reflect its inspiration: “the full spectrum of who we are.”
Modern associations one may make when considering the album are likely incorrect. According to Catherine Woodcock, the moniker started as a nickname, then mutated into a meld of alphabet and binary language: “it is not necessarily male or female, which is very freeing.” This RNBW hearkens back to a 70s metaphor for the rainbow, having less to do with gender and/or sexuality and more with pure expression.
“Never hesitate to be who you are,” sings W00DY on “Never Hesitate”, one of the album’s key tracks. Her voice is stuttered and echoes into a vast drone, which subsequently gives way to bass, beat and squelch, reminiscent of the dub/trip-hop blends of the early 90s, but with a modern twist. Aside from looped yelps, the song contains only two other words. The track serves as a metaphor for the album as a whole. What a shame it would have been had W00DY surrounded the lyric with a typical dance beat and C & C Music Factory synths. Instead, the artist demonstrates through music what she means by the words. This isn’t a club track, and it isn’t a pop track; it begins a cappella and ends with an electronic alarm.
W00DY’s brand of electronic music is sometimes tribal (“Growing Smaller”) and sometimes meditative (“Warm Spirit”, “Skin”), but is consistently thick and immersive; the sonic density of these tracks is its most apparent feature. At times, the album approaches sonic collage: a beat fades while a miked loop repeats, “the people”; synths and bells dance over a car engine guitar. Light contrast occurs whenever the lyrics (typically phrases and snatches of phrases) are sung at half time over swifter beats, as in the gorgeous “What Good”, which is built layer by layer before dissolving. It’s simultaneously the most industrial and most ethereal track on the album, a feat that hasn’t been attempted this successfully since Android Lust (Shikhee D’iordna).
The visceral “Recognize” (featuring Sadie Norkin) is another of the standout tracks, a hard techno workout that breathes more smoke than spectrum. It’s likely a staple in W00DY’s DJ sets. The same holds true for the muddy, propulsive closer, “I Dream of a Place”. But in the context of the complete album, even the body-moving tracks are subsumed in the service of a higher cause: an intelligent, smoothly-flowing exploration of the wider human experience. (Richard Allen)