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Copeland - Because I’m Worth It

Copeland finds solace in a dub landscape on her debut album.

Additional Info

8.5

ALBUM: Because I’m Worth It

ARTIST: Copeland

2014

Electronic

Though the press release accompanying Inga Copeland’s Because I’m Worth It explicitly mentions London (outside of the fact that she lives there), the landscape that her first album as a solo artist cultivates is primarily more Coney Island than Croydon. As such, sonic connections to the sea permeate the record, from the percussion crystallizing into repeating wavelets in “Serious”, to the faint trickle of water near the beginning of “Diligence”, to the dense “Inga”, which lurches back and forth like a small boat rocks in a storm. The pipes on “Insult 2 Injury” and bells on “Serious” then add a playfulness but simultaneous poignancy to the narrative: abandoned Ferris wheels and merry-go-rounds, still spinning, lights flickering, but without children to mine them.

With a few exceptions, the tracks that succeed the most on Because I’m Worth It—“Serious,” “Fit 1”, “Diligence,” and “Inga”—represent a collection of faded photographs from this abandoned seaside adventure-land. The album coheres around these images, but maintains clear and implied references to urban worlds: outside of the repeated declaration in “Advice to Young Girls” that “the city is yours,” dub music is plumbed for its connections to city-life over all eight tracks, that cover 30 short minutes. In this manner, the percussion strikes the ears relentlessly at the start of “L’Oreal” as if each primary drum hit is a skyscraper suddenly rising. Because I’m Worth It is therefore a tour through an unfamiliar city, echoes and shadows confusing the hapless pedestrian while sirens issue unpredictably overhead.

So how does Copeland reconcile urban dread with provincial nostalgia? Since professionally separating from Dean Blunt (and thus Hype Williams disbanding), Copeland’s own voice has come to the fore vis-à-vis two EPs in particular, one eponymous (2011) and the other being Don’t Look Back, That’s Not Where You’re Going (2013). That voice is the connective tissue of Because I’m Worth It, with her “Advice to Young Girls” delivered as a voicemail, where the phone rings occasionally, and a recorder button is heard being released after the last “the city is yours.” More pained, personal moments then arrive through a clearer voice, as on “Fit 1”, where a meandering line of pan pipes provides a solemn foundation. This is Because I’m Worth It’s most poignant moment of clarity and sagacity, its “Track 2” (on Black Is Beautiful with Dean Blunt) or its “The Narcissist” (on The Narcissist II, also with Blunt). But, unlike those tracks, escape from lucidity arrives in “Fit 1” through the presence of rapid-fire percussion—and thus the club becomes an exit strategy for melancholy.

As Hype Williams, Copeland and Blunt were enigmatic: unleashing a series of EPs and LPs starting in 2009 often accompanied by lo-fi videos uploaded to YouTube through an account named “pollyjacobsen.” While DJ Screw seemed an implied sonic referent, the duo made direct allusions that run the gamut from MTV’s The Real World (an album title) to Sade (a brilliant cover of “The Sweetest Taboo”). In their live performances, they often ceded the stage to other performers (flexing bodybuilders in some cases), and their interviews were cryptic. It’s fascinating to witness hints of greater personhood, presence, and thus accessibility through Copeland and Blunt’s successive, separate releases, while simultaneously the two artists continue to construct a distance between themselves and their audiences.

One trope Copeland carries over from Hype Williams, which advances this distancing, is embodied by the distortion-heavy opener “Faith OG X”, a track that offers little guidance on where Copeland is headed. In the past she employed this tactic with Blunt as a form of juxtaposition: on Black Is Beautiful, the quiet melody of “Track 2” arrives just after a percussive explosion overlaid with the recording of a person coughing (or perhaps laughing) exaggeratedly. However, on Because I’m Worth It, these more reserved “Track 2” moments are not in the minority as on past releases. Copeland’s collaborations with bass-centric producers may be often noted in the press (Actress here, and DVA and Martyn on previous releases), and do complement her general interest in dub and in club music, but this record is clearly a personal exploration. Here’s to hoping Copeland will shed the skin of those “Faith OG X” devices and fill her records with beautifully realized “Fit 1”s in the future.

“Spill a tear and then you cry for ldn/Is it the kinda place you’d die for?/How does it feel to be lied to?/But then again what’s a girl to do?”

1. Faith OG X
Crackling distortion makes room for bass that recalls the timbre of sections in Actress’ Splazsh and R.I.P. Later, a piercing, high pitch note cuts through the mix. Potentially a statement of urban paranoia (the sound of a helicopter is almost discernable), this track is the least shining moment of the album. At its end, we can only ask what comes next.5.0
2. Advice to Young Girls
Before Inga’s voice enters, soft-padded percussion dances back and forth with an extraterrestrial cooing/grunting voice, creating a comfortable shuffle that’s later augmented by a Rhodes piano-line. “Advice”, with an ABAB structure, is one of the more song-like tracks and, when the B drops a second time, the resolution—and the groove that’s been built layer by layer—is blissful. Inga encourages nothing extraordinary (“go to a club”), but affirms the awesomeness of the ordinary (“the city is yours”).9.0
3. Insult 2 Injury
More chaotic at its start than “Advice”, “Insult” incorporates several new voices, from pipes to cowbell to handclaps—even to sounds of bubbles. The tempo takes sudden, drastic shifts, and in the faster stretches, the percussion becomes more complex, with clear nods to footwork. The elements begin to come together as the capricious pipes vie with the more driving, anchored percussion. The car winds its way from murky London to seemingly jovial Brighton, carrying its passengers on a weekend getaway.7.0
4. Serious
Bells form the core of this track, hit so finely that they also could be heard as plucked strings—traversing a relatively narrow melodic range. A few moments of dissonance, a welcome tension, arrive in the last minute. The holiday-seekers have arrived at the water, but find no one else at the amusement park. The muffled bass, reverberating in a small nightclub, is heard briefly and dismissed early in the track, left in London.9.5
5. Fit 1
“Fit 1” should command any listener’s attention. Here Inga’s words are less advice and more wisdom—“You’re fast, I’m stronger”—and clearly more relationship-based. The pipes from “Insult” return and lend solemnity to the mix, almost imitating an accordion that accompanies Inga as she croons on the hillside. A siren, like a lighthouse beacon, is not alarming, but instead is nearly melodic, and protective.10.0
6. Diligence
“Diligence” is a cynical brother to “Fit 1”—the sibling that now regretfully stayed back in the city over the weekend—adopting a wider lyrical scope: “Cash moves everything around me.” The piano line is mournful, but the bass maintains a club readiness (echoed by the hi-hats) by creating a foundation in footwork.9.0
7. Inga
Lurching side to side, “Inga” leaves little time for the listener to find any footing. Accusations of dishonesty abound, and so when she merrily sings “you’ve got me spinning all over,” there’s more than a hint of irony. Outside of soft percussive pads, handclaps and woodblocks weave in and out of the track: the mood is grim but the music unaggressive.8.5
8. L’Oreal
The final track enters with punch. Distant echoes of drum claps permeate the crevices of the urban landscape: the weekenders have come home to the city. The siren returns, but less motherly and more triumphant. Ultimately, the bass shifts restlessly back and forth—searching for a willing conspirator—before disappearing completely, letting a more reserved siren take over, guiding listeners to the end of the track, its longevity seeming to carry it out of the city and to the remembered sea.7.0
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