With a name that sounds like a password or the beginning of an email address, BEA1991 – the project of Amsterdam-based Beatriz Colette Hanneke de Rijke – had been circulating her mysterious electronica around the blogosphere for five years without releasing a full length. Until now that is. The debut record from the Dutch 28-year-old artist is called Brand New Adult and in many ways it lives up to the expectation of her earlier sounds.
Some artists shred their initial unique identity when making the transition from EP to LP, but Brand New Adult contains a similar style of hypnotic experimental pop as her earlier work. It’s also self-released and although it sounds like it has been independently produced, admittedly it was recorded with the assistance of cutting edge pop producer Liam Howe, compatriot Benny Sings and omnipresent helping hand Dev Hynes (indie’s equivalent to Ed Sheeran).
The album’s title Brand New Adult is apparently a reference to prolific American author Kurt Vonnegut, a novelist whose long bibliography commented on societal themes of wealth, automation, survival-of-the-fittest and the purpose of life. Yet looking the odd album cover with the Amsterdam musician grinning whilst riding a cow and watching her music videos including the eye-trickery of ‘Did You Feel Me Slip Away?’, the backdrop-deceiving of ‘My Own Heaven’ and the multiplicity of ‘Loser Wins‘, she has a black comedy element to her character that suggests she’s not going to write an album of completely serious themes.
Yet the lyrics on BEA1991’s record are disappointingly tricky to understand due to her style of ethereal pronunciation and clouded production. While the album’s concept is also unfocused. Listeners can either try to tirelessly interpret her words or just sit back and enjoy the meditative yet soporific moods that unfold. The second option is advised because music-wise its a really soothing listen.
In it’s best moments, Brand New Adult sounds inspired by 1990’s ambient soundtracks and the trip hop of Sade and Massive Attack. The tranquil ‘Philip’ feels like it could have been created by Luc Besson’s favourite composer Éric Serra, for it’s clicking rhythm and sparkling yet patiently-paced synthesizers.
The trip-hop ‘My Own Heaven’ is a timeless gem, sounding like it could have been produced today or 20 years ago, and contains a Charlotte Gainsbourg-stylized intellectual spoken word section that adds a touch of sophistication. At the end of the song the music descends into knocking sounds and improvised spacious synth notes that reflect Beatriz’s will to be playful with her electronica.
Also in the same trip-hop genre is the mesmerizing ‘Did You Feel Me Slip Away’. It’s lyrics of loneliness are complimented by the echoey and haunting production, as well the exotic paradise sound of Choir of Young Believers’ brilliant Grasque album. There are moments when listeners will feel transported to said exotic paradise.
The bridge in the track, that Beatriz hums to herself, also reflects her solitary status, but it also shows her great skill at making non-lexical vocables ear-pleasing. Something also done to great effect in the short-lasting ‘I’m A Goldmine’ and one of the most unique tracks on the album ‘360 Perfect Timing’. Best described as a blend of Poliça, Promise and the Monster with the soundtrack to Rain Man or Miami Vice. Her lack of lyrical clarity isn’t always a problem when her voice is pleasing in this way.
Tracks such as ‘Modern Comforts’ – which contains the bewildering lyrics: “white stain on the face of a freight rain where the boy left his leverage. Watch the crops turn green, never the less shine than an alien found on the premises.” – transforms listeners away from the aforementioned deserted-island-paradise sound of the trip hop tracks to a sweaty nightclub in which intoxicated dancers slowly sway to green lazers. It’s a real begging-to-be-remixed kind of track.
Aside from the skippable tracks of opener ‘I See Trouble’, ‘Loser Wins’ and ‘The Dream’ (which promises a lot with its oboe beginning but goes nowhere) and the disappointing opaqueness of the lyrics and concept, Brand New Adult is an admirable and invigorating debut that’s perfect to listen to on headphones whilst lying down on summer grass.