Albums of this type are notoriously difficult to review, eschewing, as they do, anything as mundane or prosaic as conventional song structures, harmonic composition or a traditional approach to melody. Welcome, then, to the unsettling, indeed positively disturbing, sound world of Android Lust, the solo vehicle of industrial-avant-garde pioneer, the Bangladeshi-born, Shikhee; ‘The Human Animal‘ being her latest offering. Dido this most assuredly is not.
The main differences between this album and previous releases, her website tells us, is that for the first time she has utilised her live band as studio partners and has deployed a wealth of different sounds she captured and recorded while wandering around the streets and subways of New York City, her current home. This, we are further informed, has lent the material “…an unexpected organic warmth”. With all due respect, that really is pushing the envelope. Any “warmth” secreted within the eerie, dystopian soundscapes on offer here is definitely at a premium. Rather, the eleven coldly synthetic grooves comprising ‘The Human Animal‘, would work neatly as the soundtrack to a futuristic, robot fetish party. One with the Pleasure Droids from Blade Runner doubling as waiters and serving up the hors d’œuvres.
The opening gambit is ‘Intimate Stranger‘, a mid-tempo groove which kicks off with a barely audible male voice-over before our space-age chanteuse enters with an atonal vocal underpinned by a jittery keyboard. The track builds in intensity with layers of samples joining the complex mix before ending in the most abrupt manner possible. Disconcerting, we think you’ll find.
Track three, ‘Saint Over‘ opens with a down-tempo synth riff as the framework upon which Shikhee regales us with a goose bump-inducing critique of an unsatisfactory lover. When she darkly intones “I give you chance after chance after chance and you keep failing” it’s hard not to glance uneasily over your shoulder.
‘God In The Hole‘ is probably the closest she comes to a conventional song on this record, with a grating, discordant riff at two minutes in just about qualifying as a middle eight. The driving, industrial-style riff which propels the track along in a weirdly shuffle-like fashion is something that Marilyn Manson fans will recognise and, no doubt, appreciate.
Contrasts with the preceding material arrive at track six, ‘The Return‘, which, at just one minute and thirty seven seconds, is also the shortest. This deeply creepy number features a simple, ghostly pattern picked out on electric piano, oddly reminiscent of Japan classic, ‘Night Porter‘. Shikhee adorns the most down-beat song on the album with a ghostly, echoing vocal that sounds, to these ears, as if it’s coming from somewhere far beyond the grave.
‘The Human Animal‘ is certainly a remarkable work; innovative, challenging and demanding. Whether the listener is repaid for meeting the challenge laid down is an entirely subjective matter. Such is the ephemeral nature of all art, we guess. Shikhee is an uncompromising artist with a singular vision and while you won’t be seeing her grace the Top Ten, we’re sure she wouldn’t have it any other way.
One thing’s for sure, though; whatever the rest of us may think, genius serialist and pioneer of atonality, Arnold Schoenberg, is surely looking down from his celestial perch nodding enthusiastically in approval. Cheryl Cole fans, on the other hand, are strongly advised to seek musical sustenance elsewhere.
For more information visit the official MySpace.