Brocka Nolen’s dramatic debut EP, Body Politic, is an arresting piece of work, in part because it seems to have bubbled up out of nowhere. (From all I could discern, Nolen is, for now, a solely studio-based artist, with no club dates scheduled in the recent past or near future.)
The Dallas-based singer, who favors the frostier end of the pop spectrum (shades of Portishead, Massive Attack or Bjork’s mid-’90s output) and vocally evokes Natalie Merchant by way of Imogen Heap, embraces sonic shadows filled with bass and cello, her echo-draped voice quivering with emotion.
From the hypnotic opener Time Loop through to the bleak Hard Love, Nolen synthesizes a half-dozen influences into something that feels unique — and certainly unlike much else heard in North Texas.
This brand of austere, emotionally monochromatic pop isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but those who sample the stylish Body Politic might come away bewitched by Nolen’s command of mood, intrigued by what lies ahead and with a new favorite local artist to boot.
Lion Eye, ‘Babylon Burn’
Reggae — in land-locked Fort Worth? Sure, why not? With its roots in the city’s eclectic and hyper-prolific hip-hop scene, Lion Eye (Jamaican native Paul “Giggy” Gordon, Dru B Shinin’, Young Zeus, Paul Garza, Josh Vandenburg, Sam Rude, Blaq Ron and Shayla Sweetz) may elicit raised eyebrows from reggae purists ( Desmond Dekker and Bob Marley weren’t exactly spitting rhymes like this), but give credit where it’s due: no other rappers in DFW are trying anything like this.
The eight-track EP is, as has become customary for a G1 release, handsomely produced and richly textured — Giggy, Dru and Zeus swap lead vocal duties throughout, giving each cut a spontaneity that’s as irie as it is infectious.
Pharmakos is the musical moniker of Grapevine native, Southern Methodist University grad and current Brooklyn resident Cole Hill, who began piecing together what would become the intense, dense Nude (released by Dallas indie label Pour le Corps Records) three years ago.
Less an album of songs than a sustained series of sonic collages, the 10-track Nude is a riot of sounds — the MGM lion rears its head early in Kim Novak, while the repeated phrase “evil is real” threads through shards of electric guitar in Only Child — held together by Hill’s grim, discomfiting vision.
In Nude’s press notes, Hill reveals the record was “originally imagined as a concept record told from the point of view of a serial killer throughout various stage of his life,” although that intent is never made explicit in the finished material. Instead, what lingers is the feeling of a late night, standing on the edge of a mental collapse — Nude peels away the familiar and the comfortable, leaving nothing but exposed nerves and unsettled thoughts.