Céline Gillain

Mind Is Mud

Cortizona • 2023

Pop music can be defined in many different ways, but most simply as an embrace, as a comfortably familiar gesture of intimacy. In this sense, »Mind Is Mud« is very much a pop album, except that the embrace comes directly from behind, since alienation effects are an integral part of its underlying concept. From the cover artwork to the last note, Céline Gaillain’s 2021 debut »Bad Woman« had already relied on Uncanny Valley effects and these nine tracks do the same. The sound design is reduced. Besides drums, basslines and finely dosed melodic and harmonic elements, it barely uses anything to fill the space in the mix. And yet it is characterised by a richness that feeds directly on Gillain’s approach: »I don’t really write, I copy paste and then I arrange and rearrange,« she writes in a statement about the album. Indeed, quotes from music history appear again and again, and Gillain evokes classic structures of electronic and pop music, with even the lyrics being, according to her, collages of other texts. Abrasive drones sit side by side with IDM clutter, bouncing offbeats and sometimes borrowings from the New Beat sound of Belgium. Amid this wonderful chaos, Céline Gillain demonstrates a vocal flexibility that is always in dialogue with the album’s musical diversity. Here she displays Leslie Winer cool, there she tries her hand at Scott Walker-like theatricality, and in between you’ll find plenty of spoken word passages and light-footed hooklines—whatever the respective song needs at the moment. So much about this album seems familiar, and yes, this is pop music, in a way. But every piece and shift in mood comes as unexpectedly as an embrace directly from behind.