Dreamy blend of genres and sounds

English newcomer Lauren Auder.
English newcomer Lauren Auder.PHOTO: TRUE PANTHER SOUNDS

ART ROCK

WHO CARRY'S YOU

Lauren Auder

True Panther Sounds

4 stars

A veil of existential gauze hangs over Lauren Auder. A much buzzed-about English newcomer who grew up in the south of France, the 20-year-old has raised eyebrows with his genre-leaping style.

His lissome look - flowing tresses, velvet suits and a daub of gold-glitter eyeshadow and black eyeliner - is matched with his spacious music, a melange of New Romantic, neo-classical, art rock and electronic soul.

You cannot quite place him. His sensual baritone reminds one of David Sylvian, English singer-songwriter and former frontman of glam rock group Japan, circa his solo album Dead Bees On A Cake (1999); or legendary American troubadour Scott Walker.

At the same time, he shares kinship with alt-soul crooners like The Weeknd and Frank Ocean, an anti-machismo ethos that underlies Auder's probing of genre/gender roles.

His debut EP, Who Carry's You, places him in a dreamy firmament all his own. No sooner has one deduced he is the successor to 1980s glam rockers than another zinger proves he belongs resolutely in the future.

English newcomer Lauren Auder.

The opening track, Choices, sets the plangent atmospherics. Synths rise like sunrise, or ebb and flow like tides. "We wish to escape," he intones, as a jazzy horn toots in the background. Organs hum.

"Why I let you go," goes another line, as the song dissolves into the next track, The Baptist.

His voice is miked front and centre, a caramel drawl dripping over electronic strings and baroque horns. The words meld religious iconography with millennial dread, as he surveys the detritus.

"I was born into the western world's ghost/And my mistakes are made in a place of hope," he sings, ambivalence hanging in the air.

The idea of infinity, a supernatural logic, holds Ouroboros together. Working with Lyon producer Dviance, he becomes part of an intricate lattice of loops.

Synths flutter like butterflies. His voice, disembodied, becomes part of this glossolalia, a primal language for a congregation.

These Broken Limbs Again Into One Body is more upbeat, a tug of war between will and brute strength. He prowls the soundscape like a prince of darkness in a fog of clattering percussion and ringing riffs. "And I've met Janus," he sings, referring to the two-faced Roman god who looks to the past and the future.

The closing track, For Those Who Patiently Endure, sums up his thesis. "Some say we're all pawns in a game/I refute this till my jaw goes lame," he avers, as the music ramps up one notch, drums beating insistently as wave after synth wave rises over the horizon.

Is resolution or salvation near? We wait, riveted.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 16, 2018, with the headline 'Dreamy blend of genres and sounds'. Print Edition | Subscribe