Sounds Like Cocoon Fever,
Records Are Dead, México
by Carlos Reyes
Musical and visual composition tends to respond well to otherworldly abstraction, especially when the surfer of its wavelength is in full dialogue with the human condition. Part space opera and part velvety chillwave, White Ninja’s sophmore album is a triumph of gorgeous digital sequencing, analog proverb, and individual grooving. Two years ago, Leo Marz astonished us with his debut Guacala Los Modernos y Su Electro, a spellbinding record we described as “a series of adrenaline rushes, jammed technos, and unbounded clutter.” Marz’s comeback is less militant in its execution, equally intricate in its assortment of beats, and more affecting to the creator’s well-harvested, shoegazing morph.
With sweaty grooves dripping into slow-burning acid, Sounds Like Cocoon Fever dignifies its self-descriptive title in ways that are as encouraging to the human strength as Space Odyssey’s monoliths. With little or no resemblance to the “No Retreat No Surrender” premise of his debut, Marz now finds himself fully immersed and motivated by blissed-out machinery. White Ninja’s flirtations with wavelength allocate the act as part of the exciting group of artists pulsating rhythm into faded synth-pop memories (Neon Indian, Washed Out, Toro y Moi). But unlike these contemporaries, White Ninja has the psychotropic vertebrate to travel within its own grooves. When, in the first sequence of compression, springs start bouncing in “El Alfa," you just know this will be an album about proportion and digital blossoming. This is a song that progresses from a perplexed urban number to a sort of futuristic cumbia.
Marz, who is also a member of Monterrey’s non-linear pop band Album, knows a thing or two about juxtaposing plot with space. If “PCU” and “Regrets are the Best” sound like pastiches bouncing on synthetic ropes it's because the 6-piece album practices discontinuity to recruit and retreat from its own form. When you have something as exceptionally executed as the sequencing in this album, it’s best to embrace it. Not to say White Ninja is template-dependent, but upon multiple listens one learns to recognize its patterns and motifs; an exciting moment for any technicality buff who doesn’t mind records to losing their romantic mysticism. Released digitally by Marz’s own netlabel Records Are Dead and soon to be published on cassette via UK’s Abastrakt Muzak, Sounds Like Cocoon Fever is one of the most exciting releases of the year.
While the sequencing drives White Ninja’s orbit, the emotional cues in the album arrive mostly at the clever inwardness of its vocals (by Tavo Figueroa). Particularly in “Patty Hearst,” where Marz abandons narrative as means of approach and goes straight to your soul. It’s almost as if the holy spirit of La Lupe took over with its “Fever” and poisoned White Ninja’s nervous system in the most frenzied and sweaty way you could possibly think of. Album finale “Hit and Run” resolves all the ideas of a truly whimsical, self-resolving album. It might be short in length, but Sounds Like Cocoon Fever is a profound knockout worthy of international appraisal. Six tracks and two interludes are in conversation with one another, grooving collectively in what’s bound to become one of the year’s most progressive records.