These tracks are decidedly disrespectful to the concept of genre. They tumble in and out of stylistic designations with the reckless trajectory of something hurled by an infant. They bloom and buzz. They explode and retract. But together they work -- their hues and themes clinging together like the hull of a rickety spaceship reentering the atmosphere.
Pattern is Movement -- "Suckling"
A clusterbang of teetering tangents, "Suckling" is part electro-pop, part drone, part grunge. To contextualize it, it's first necessary to understand its anatomy, from the bottom up: A bass synth womps menacingly as an electric piano twinkles and over-compressed drums crash and rollick. It's perhaps not surprising to learn that Pattern is Movement, a Philadelphia-based duo, has toured with artists as diverse as The Roots and St. Vincent. Their style, which is really just a bunch of styles pancaked atop each other, seems built for this sort of adaptability.
Wet -- "Don't Wanna Be Your Girl"
Upon brisk inspection, "Don't Wanna Be Your Girl" appears built of several components that add up to a simple, romantic ode. The band name, for one. The swelling synths and crystalline vocals, for another. But Kelly Zutrau's message, despite its plush sonic cushion, is clear: "I don't wanna be your girl no more," she moans. "I won't hide the ways I've tried/It's just not right/It's killing me tonight." That the message is delivered so beautifully, again and again, only aids its heartbreaking efficacy: It's the sonic equivalent of a blood-flecked rose petal.
Giggs -- "(Is It Gangsta?) Yes Yes Yes
"Is it gangsta?" The pistol-tongued British hip-hop newcomer Giggs wants to know. The answer, as one might expect, is emphatically yes. But this is no stuttering, crunk-tinged "gangsta" rap of 2013. This is the type with a luxuriously pronounced "r" - the martinis and tommyguns variety; the stuff of bolo hats and card tables flipped angrily in slow motion. Thanks to Marc Ronson's glamorous production, this track provides a shimmering soundtrack to every badass fantasy you ever had. And it does so without wrinkling its suit even a smidge.
MellowHigh -- "Yu"
The OF crew's verbal dexterity and sun-bleached nihilism are on loud display here. You've got your pseudo-Hobbesian narrative of "Making the most of what this bullshit world allotted us;" your boasts about credibility in the face of a rapid ascension ("I've been kicking knowledge since my fucking pockets knotted up"). But as is the case with most of the L.A. collective's repertoire, there's an outraged and deeply dismayed conscience wringing its hands somewhere deep beneath the slick rhymes. Accessing this morality, as Frank Ocean and Earl Sweatshirt have managed to do on their solo work, is the key to morphing from bored teens to prophetic artists. Mellowhigh lags a bit behind these two, but they're well on their way.
Who knew that precision and melodrama worked so well together? "Helpless Child," which totters between meditative, bouncy and utterly explosive, owes much to Prince, Kate Bush, and Dirty Projectors. It's scrupulously composed, but it also feels untethered to any sort of firm genre boundaries. It is, in essence, a menagerie of a song: one style after the other, each one more bizarre than its predecessor. That it ends with a David Lynch-inspired synth meditation seems appropriate. Like Lynch's films, "Helpless Child" leaves you feeling challenged and troublingly, satisfyingly off-kilter.