Three years ago, Oklou, otherwise known as Marylou Mayniel, released her debut EP ‘The Rite of May’ on subversive dance label NUXXE, also home to the flashy, disjointed club beats of Sega Bodega, ShyGirl and Coucou Chloé. But her latest offering, ‘Galore’, couldn’t be further away from the maximalist-electro of her peers. Released in three parts, the French artist’s new mixtape is positively serene: a delicate, avant-garde collection of songs that explore emotional rebirth and feminine emancipation.
‘Galore’ is the meeting point between Oklou’s classical musical training and internet aesthetic. The title track and ‘Rosebud’ both open with feather-light trills that are the electronic equivalent of Mozart finger-work, whilst ‘Fall’ is dotted with orchestral string overlays. Mayniel’s SoundCloud beginnings come through in heavily Auto-Tuned vocals, the occasional flash of underground club production and Massive Attack-style trip-hop on ‘Asturias’. Traditional and futuristic influences combine to create something spaced-out and graceful; single ‘Unearth Me’ starts with warm, subtle synths, before expanding into a tale of phoenixes and rejuvenation. Its soaring “Ooh, love” chorus and computerised vocals wouldn’t be out of place on a fantasy gaming soundtrack.
Like many a modern-day musician (hello, Bon Iver), Oklou falls into the trap of vocoder-dependency. ‘Galore’ tries to spin a mystical story of lost shepherds and white horses, but it often feels like there’s not much thematic substance behind the imagery, and on the mixtape’s coda ‘I Didn’t Give Up On You’, the heavily-processed vocals drain, rather than emote Mayniel’s confessions. ‘Girl On My Throne’ (ft. Casey MQ) is the mixtape’s most blatant pop offering. Written with Charli XCX collaborators EASYFUN and A.G. Cook, it’s an undeniable but unconvincing earworm that doesn’t come close to Oklou’s sweetly off-kilter singles ‘Forever’ and ‘Entertnmnt’.
The Charli XCX homage seems unnecessary because Oklou is already creating her own, magnetising brand of future alt-pop. ‘God’s Chariot’ finds a perfect compromise between fleeting, choral harmonies and chunky industrial sonics, while ‘Another Night’ is an ’80s-inspired, atmospheric R&B trip. On the whole, Mayniel manages to save her electronic compositions from growing repetitive, providing enough interest and originality to propel her melodies forward.
If anything, Oklou’s move into the mainstream is ideal late night listening. Modern lullaby ‘Nightime’ and recordings of cicadas plunge you into a peaceful, nocturnal soundscape, smoothing out the mixtape’s intersection between club and comedown. ‘Galore’ is a taste of the future of pop music: a fantastical and surprising universe that you can easily get lost in.
- Release date: September 24
- Record label: TaP Records