Back at the dawn of our last decade, there was a name for this stuff: folktronica. Basically sentimental, romantic indie-folk at it’s core, it was return-to-basics songwriting as interpreted by the first generation of electronic bedroom producers. It felt like a potentially exciting crossroads at the time — IDM was reaching critical mass and folk had finally become a viable genre to rediscover (again). Labels like Leaf and Carpark were cropping up left and right, building their names off of buzzing beats, synth washes and harp samples. Mixing new technology and the traditional has never been a trifling proposition, and roughly a decade later the only apparent victors in this seemingly irreconcilable union would appear to be groups like Broadcast, Junior Boys and Hot Chip, none of whom have much interest in the application of folk in their music.
Calling the music of Annabel Alpers Bachelorette project a folktronica throwback is certainly oversimplifying the case, but for now let it serve as a crude parchment to illustrate my point. The point being that, to a certain extent, she is conducting an experiment under premises that have already been disproved by her predecessors. But she does make a noble argument. Her production is crisp and lush, floating multi-layered vocals over vaguely electro synth patterns, thudding bass and minimal acoustic strumming. The lyrics occasionally seem to verge into music/life metaphors, meditating on the nature of relationships, the natural world, existence — the universal themes. Even this doesn’t bother me as much as it could, because it seems genuine — and more importantly, the product of a stranger mind than most.
Alpers filters her observations through a childlike lens of innocence and wonder that manages to be more charming than cloying, largely due to the fact that she keeps things abstract and cryptic enough to avoid platitudes. Still, there are moments where the overall vibe veers a little too close to boutique chic, as if she can’t quite decide whether to play things straight or give into the weirdo undercurrents percolating throughout.
As it is, this kind of thing has been done to death, and more convincingly, by the likes of Bjork and The Knife. Bachelorette is undoubtedly a step forward from her previous work, but until she fully throws herself into it with abandon, both sides she’s working here will invariably suffer. Bachelorette: you’re already on Drag City, let your freak flag fly!