“My advice to young girls would be go home after school. Pretend to go to sleep. While your parents argue in the kitchen, put on some makeup and dress up. You sneak out of the window and meet your friends on the corner. Together you’re strong. You walk the streets. Taste the city. Taste the night. The city is yours.” So goes the monologue kicking off Inga Copeland’s “Advice to Young Girls”, maybe the closest to a political manifesto that the UK-based singer has created yet.
Even though her previous work in Hype Williams created waves of “are they kidding or not?!” scepticism in media interviews, something feels extremely up close and personal about copeland’s debut solo LP Because I’m Worth It, an album whose title itself plays on the precarious places between self confidence and vulnerability. It’s always tough to tell with Copeland – it could be a straightforward statement of personal strength, or it could be referencing an old L’Oreal shampoo commercial- a commentary on the paradox of being sold your self-worth through a product that thrives on consumer insecurity.
Copeland’s previous release Don’t Look Back, That’s not Where You’re Going EP showcased some of her strongest and most floor-friendly pop melodies yet, backed by woozy garage rhythms by Martyn and Scratcha DVA, however Because I’m Worth It finds the musician largely stepping away from the vocal spotlight. Instead, she focuses on woozy basement experimentalism, needling, unsettling prickly soundscapes, and pitch-shifted monologues that linger and hover around the room long after the songs are finished. “Faith OG X” is a challenging opener, even by Juno Plus standards. Beginning with a barely audible pinprick tapping sound, it erupts into churning waves of sludgy synth movement. But the introduction of squealing, piercing high-pitched frequencies eventually swarm the track, desecrating every other sound in the palette until only they remain – simulating what your shell-shocked ear drums might sound like after you dive on top of a grenade
While those with a history of tinnitus may want to stay away from the opening track, Actress-accompanied “Advice to Young Girls” is an outstanding highlight, one which somehow manages to weave ringing rotary phones and sludgy organ punches into a steady, addictive rhythm. Copeland’s closing repetition of the lines “the city is yours”, followed by the crushing chorus is particularly haunting. “insult 2 injury” sounds like a fluttery, speed-addled remake of Pender Street Stepper’s “Bubble World”, steadily gaining momentum with its share of bubbly percolations rippling throughout the innovative percussion-focused tune. “Serious” playing its foil; barely clocking in at two minutes, it’s a skeletal sketch of drums played on what sounds like a xylophone of hollowed-out bones.
The flip side of the record begins with “Fit 1”, the most placating and calm track on the album, and one of the few times that Copeland’s vocals take centre stage. But as sturdy as her voice sounds, her production techniques really take off here – transforming a slow-swooning ballad into a cacophony of handclaps, with serene strings playing backup. “Diligence” broadcasts a spacious, snappy pattern approaching a juke tempo, while Copeland half-speaks and half-sings a monologue ]on the complexities of living in a world ruled by money that sounds like it’s being broadcast out the PA system during exercise hour at some dystopian future mega-jail.
“Inga” is the closest copeland gets to her previous work on the Don’t Look Back, That’s not Where You’re Going EP, except in this incarnation, the pop-influences have been sucked dry of their marrow. Shaking with disorienting, motion-sickness inducing reverb, it’s reminiscent of the expressionless selfie on the album’s cover – seemingly impossible to decipher a meaning from, but affecting all the same. Because I’m Worth It serves not only as proof that Copeland has a prodigious talent for crafting experimental dance music from many different angles (from the slow-burning creepy end-of-night material to frenzied, disorienting thundering percussive tools), but also as a unique infusion of the personal and political. Whether we’ll figure out what any of it means is another matter.
A1. Faith OG X
A2. advice to young girls (w/Actress)
A3. insult 2 injury
B1. Fit 1