Maylee Todd - Maloo
Released: March 2022
Label: Stones Throw Records
Canadian multimedia artist Maylee Todd’s ‘Maloo’ is a concept album based on a character created for a prototype virtual reality game she developed this year. The artist describes her songs as “story based science fiction lullabies” and the project takes its multimedia origins and uses them to not only shape the aesthetic of the album, but the music itself.
Sonically ‘Maloo’ is a rich, textural work decoded through a sci-fi compiler that generates space-age scenarios and orchestrates them with aquatic synth lines and delicate chord layers. It's an album influenced by classic dream pop and the sleek world of modern electronica, moulding the real world and the digital world into a surreal, resonant, and harmonious 32-minutes. Suspension is the key to the album’s success, as it utilises the limitless moulding capabilities of electronics, causing every moment to hang in the air like clouds after a rainstorm. The drum patterns are tastefully minimal yet fascinatingly composed and the production a stellar example of new-age ambience.
Opener 'Age of Energy' gently forgoes any strong sense of pulse, the bassline mellifluously suggests one as Todd's vocal - which is instantly reminiscent of the late Trish Keenan - swirls around atonal arpeggiations and sustained electronic drones. It is a blissful introduction that emphasises how much presence her music can have through minimal elements that are carefully and collectively composed. The velvety techno groove and soft sci-fi poetry of second track ‘No Classification’ is a perfect example of a juxtaposition between the digital and real world, a reminder that this music is as human as it is cybernetic, as is the multilayered snappy backbeat of early highlight ‘Infinite Program’.
“We participate in the digital landscape and our digital life has real-life implications"
The weightless broken chord progressions and floating synth melodyline on 'Tiny Chiffon' are reminiscent of Japanese new age innovators like Hiroshi Yoshimura or Satoshi Ashikawa, but the delicately sung harmonies of the track’s final third are clearly inspired by the stylings of Solange and English experimental artist Tirzah. 'Show Me' is a beautiful balancing act of many synth melodies that become acid drenched R&B with a sublime bounding sub bassline and melodic keyboards.
The genius of this project is the way that it magnifies minimal events, allowing them to stand tall next to the more multi-layered tracks like 'No Other' and fuzzy electronic jam 'Dream With You'. A record with this spacious ethos could potentially be drowsy and inconsequential but Todd's guiding hand adds an explorative edge to these tracks that makes listening in worth the extra bit of brainpower. She paces everything geniously so that, even with its short runtime and barebones production, coming back to the world she's built through 'Maloo' is always a pleasure.
‘Maloo’ is Maylee Todd’s debut release for the incredible Stones Throw Records, and exhibits her mystical yet full of life songwriting as she contemplates escapism through the internet and the connection between our online world and our personal world, and how they melt deeper into each other by the day. She imagines herself as trash TV and fantasies about being able to end this version of herself on 'Dream With You', finding ways to use the general apathy and structure of machines to show her commitment to another person. As she closes the album out with the words "Let's do this with the ones we love" carried by beaming synths headed for the sky, she's finally found somewhere comfortable in this space between her present self and her online self.
Todd is more than willing to let you drift in and out of your engagement with the album as you'd like, yet you’re never truly pulled out of the immersive, futuristic world she's built. It's an album aware of how it sounds, what it was built to be, and how it's experienced. Todd takes her quaint musical style in stride, using it to the fullest extent possible to make 'Maloo' a universe to remember, the littlest hint of sound has you chasing it right up to the very end. Cherishing every moment in this sedative, radiant world is the greatest gift Maylee Todd has given us.