Album Review: Deniz Kurtel / ‘The Way We Live’ (Wolf + Lamb)


The producer who developed the idea of music as guardian angel doesn’t ditch her sonic surveillance on her sophomore album. Not as clingy or up close and personal as her debut, Music Watching Over Me, Deniz Kurtel maximizes her right to be standoffish, with the introduction of Anti Pop Consortium-style hip-hop — the title track, “Right On” featuring Spearhead’s Michael Franti — increasing the pressure.

Within the ’80s inflections syndicating electro-pop and Detroit/Chicago layovers, “You Know It’s True” re-models two well-known pop fraudsters and “Thunder Clap” draws space fantasies in moonboots. There is expansion, yet the enigmatic grip Kurtel has over you continues, a skeletal hand that manages to be warm and pulpy when “Wake Me Up” shows human sincerity and “I Knew This Would Happen” brightens up. Kurtel’s string-pulling and wicked witchedness means she encourages tracks to spread their wings, but issues warnings that The Marcy All-Stars must report back to her or else.

The audio-visual element in which she also specializes in doesn’t make for much of an exhibition on paper, showcasing a canvas of shuffling, snapping darkness fleetingly illuminated by a mix of sleek and faltering neon through the blinds of the Marcy Hotel. Kurtel reiterates the skill of heightening the senses by taking away from them, where the starkness leaves the imagination to fill in the blanks. Super cool.
File under: Soul Clap, Gadi Mizrahi, Maya Jane Coles