Multi-instrumentalist Morgane Lhote is most likely best known to many listeners as a longtime keyboardist for Stereolab during their stellar late nineties / early noughties phase, but these days she’s based in Los Angeles, with her current band Hologram Teen offering up a considerably different musical proposition. Two years on from her preceding ‘Marsangst’ EP, ‘Between The Funk And The Fear’ offers up Lhote’s debut album as Hologram Teen, and its eleven tracks see her fusing together a veritable record collection’s worth of influences, ranging from seventies French disco through to psychedelic Brazilian rock, and the synth soundtracks of John Carpenter and Goblin.
The accompanying bio material describes this album as a “prog rock disco horror soundtrack”, and it’s certainly as apt a description as anything for what’s happening here. ‘Post-Apocalypteacakes’ sets the scene for what’s to come as blocky bass notes and airy synth pads generate a sense of moody atmosphere, only for punching 4/4 kickdrums and flashy disco synth arpeggios to suddenly kick into action, the icy Italo-house arrangements calling to mind the similarly dark-minded likes of Arnaud Rebotini.
‘God(d) Of Thunder Vs Sukia’ sees Lhote collaborating with Mo’ Wax sleazy psychedelicists Sukia to craft an eccentric fusion of eerie synth-orchestral arrangements and languid keys that sits somewhere between Ennio Morricone and seventies yacht rock, the booming spoken interjections that echo through the rippling layers of synths, flutes and percussion adding to the general oddness. Elsewhere, ‘Hologram Teen & Brasil 666’ evokes comparisons to one of John Carpenter’s early eighties synth scores as rippling bass arpeggios and glassy analogue synths conjure up brooding atmosphere, the distant spoken samples that trail through calling to mind some distant radio transmission.
‘Bartok In C’ meanwhile turns the flamboyant suspense levels up a few notches, sending delay-treated flecks of guitar ebbing against ominous cinematic strings and krautrock-tinged live drumming while wordless scat vocals get cut up and dubbed out all over the place. While there’s often the sense that Lhote is trying to mesh together a dizzying number of different musical influences and styles here, it results in a surprisingly coherent blend, the constant shifting of gears in this case all being in the service of the grooves. Most importantly, ‘Between The Funk And The Fear’ offers up one of the most fun and simultaneously spinechilling disco-horror experiences you’re likely to have this year.