Golden Donna, II

[100% Silk]

Since 2011, 100% Silk has offered a constant stream of vinyl and tape releases from a mixture of core artists and, more often than not, unknowns getting their first big break. It’s an admirable A&R policy that’s given us Ital, Magic Touch, Fort Romeau, and many others. Unfortunately it’s difficult to keep up with such a deluge, especially the tape releases that are not as widely available or promoted. Still, this is not a format to take lightly with 100% Silk. Take for example the album II by Madison-based producer Golden Donna, a tour de force of dance music styles whose constituent parts are themselves accomplished hybrids. The follow up to his 2012 self-titled debut LP on Silk’s parent label, Not Not Fun Records, II has the potential to impress most people lucky enough to hear the cassette or snag it digitally.

A cursory browse through Golden Donna’s discography (much of which happens to be on tape) suggests flitting from style to style is de rigeur for him, which explains the confidence shown on each of II‘s seven tracks. Even more impressive is how he pulls together the best qualities of each aesthetic to create novel sounds rather than pastiche franken-songs. Album opener “Remember” begins with a metallic clang, followed by slow, soaring organ chords that suggest labelmates Octo Octa or Policy. By the time a funky bass line and low, syncopated hi-hats fill out the frame, however, it feels like we’ve been eased into Golden Donna’s own vision. This arrives unfiltered on “Diamondheaded Girl,” which at first bristles with sharp techno riffs that recede behind lighthearted synth melodies and a sweetheart bass line. It’s like a rose whose beautiful flower must be held delicately because of its thorns.

One influence that comes through quite clearly is Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works 85-92, especially in the subterranean stroll of “Auscultation” and the synth voices of “Bloodsucker” — to say nothing of the bass weight throughout. And while these are well worn touchstones, in the context of II they feel like accessories in Golden Donna’s collection rather than the guiding forces. That sense is reaffirmed by the other tracks. “Pale Dream Rider” feels like someone throttling back an electro track to boogie tempos, which gives rise to clever double-time drum patterns and racing synth leads. A dark Italo bass line runs through “Empty Charm Vessle,” sharing compositional weight with crisp, hip-hop compatible percussion and rising synth voices. And album closer, “Looking Glass Forest,” would come off sad if its repeated chords and moaning synth lead were not accompanied by a deliberate, popping funk bass line that morphs into something altogether more house shaped. That this transformation takes place on the last track is no accident. It’s one last reminder Golden Donna’s II is an excellent joy ride that takes listeners to unexpected places within his particular aesthetic.


Steve Mizek’s Year In Dance Music 2014 – Little White Earbuds  on January 20, 2015 at 12:02 AM

[…] wave — doubly so for their tape releases, which this was. I spilled considerable digital ink praising it earlier this year so I won’t be as indulgent this time, but suffice it to say that II was a lovely album I […]

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