Wavelength is an example of an artist doing everything right. Building on the success of last spring’s debut EP Machine, Zoe Reddy has returned with a powerful visual presence to accompany her already intriguing music. First ~ that dress! Seeing the cover, we instantly wanted to know more about Reddy, whose choice is as bold as a Björk swan. This artist is not afraid to take chances. This led us to the video for “Self entitled man” (directed by Joël van Dooren and Gemma Barendse), in which nothing is as it seems. Roses blur, as do Reddy’s lips as she sings. Then her shoulder blade starts moving like an ocean wave (no, that is not natural!). There’s another dress, even more out-there than the first, as well as a burial shawl. The words are disrupted by loops and modulations. The tone is romantic in a gothic sense, rife with suffering and accusation. One would not want to be this self-entitled man. We suspect the “male” voice that enters midway is actually Reddy, a la Låpsley’s early experiments. No man necessary! You are not an essential business. The male facade dissolves like the melting visuals. Finally, Reddy flips the concept of Ophelia on its head, floating down a river of flowers alive and strong: a beautiful indictment.
Reddy is neither pop artist nor inaccessible, but somewhere in-between. Her vocal delivery is seldom straightforward, until she wants to make a point; her music is innovative, a challenge to the stagnation of modern dance music. And yes, this music is for dancing, as demonstrated in last year’s “Satellite.” It’s easy to imagine her making an impact, following the example of uncompromising artists such as FKA Twigs. She should be on the charts; she could be on the charts; but she’s not chasing the charts.
“Breaking Glasses” demonstrates the fluidity of Reddy’s voice: wordless ah’s chased by backwards masking and low-pitched spoken word. The first stuttered verse takes over a minute to appear. Reddy is breaking glasses over her head, just as Björk once walked to the edge of the mountain to throw little things off. Another voice yells speaker-to-speaker; Rob Kanters’ mastering is superb. In “Goddamn,” “Everything In Reverse” and “Cassette Dream,” Reddy shifts her voice from lyric to texture, dissolving into the mix like a slew of additional instruments. Some manner of dream is unfolding here, through porous edges. Why can’t this be what we hear on the radio?
“Everything In Reverse” alternates between stumbling beats and dance floor propulsion, neither side dominant, backgrounds always in flux. The closing phrase “let’s go backwards, dear” suggests that it might make a compelling video. “Extract Groove” burns with a slow funk. Finally, in the title track, the artist grows direct, with melodic piano and the enchanting statement, “you’re on my wavelength; you’re on my side now.” We’d like to think so, even if the wavelength rests on the far end of the dial. (Richard Allen)