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Aprxel Tapetumlucidum


  • Genre:

    Pop/R&B / Experimental

  • Label:


  • Reviewed:

    January 8, 2024

On her debut full-length, the Hanoi conceptualist sings of youthful heartache over glitched-out, sub-rattling beats.

Aprxel (pronounced “april”) might be your favorite drainer’s favorite drainer. On her debut full-length tapetumlucidum<3, the Hanoi singer-songwriter’s voice bleeds into distorted, collage-like productions by Pilgrim Raid (aka Long Trần). Both are members of Mona Evie, a collective of young artists flourishing in the city’s underground music scene. The album is also a showcase of fellow Hanoian conceptualists, like noise wrangler Tran Uy Duc and sound artist Lý Trang, who produced Aprxel’s first EP AM, PM. While the sample-based, deep-fried maximalism of peers like Jane Remover and Rắn Cạp Đuôi often approaches hyperactivity, Trần’s productions saunter through glitched-out cyberspace as Aprxel’s smoky voice floats above the din. Amid the overstimulation and memey undertones of the current landscape, tapetumlucidum<3 is refreshingly heartfelt and grounded.

While post-TikTok attention spans have encouraged many bedroom artists to shorten the runtime of their tracks, Aprxel sings over instrumentals that meander and unravel into oblivion. “va’ng9999” begins with a dreamy interpolation of Little River Band’s “Reminiscing” that gradually gets chopped and screwed, eventually surrendering to a wall of fuzz laid down by Lưu Thanh Duy of shoegaze outfit Nam Thế Giới. The noisy four-on-the-floor of “two” takes a left turn into swingy 2-step garage, while on “planet hollywood,” Aprxel sings over JPEGMAFIA-type beats that disintegrate into spiraling sax lines. When a minimalist dembow riddim edges its way in, you have to check whether you’re still listening to the same song.

These experiments can be hit-or-miss, but the record’s more straightforward plugg’n’b middle section is a smooth synthesis of Raid’s low-bitrate SoundCloud beats and the midnight melancholy of Aprxel’s harmonies. “cbd” blends grim Memphis stylings with limpid synths, fusing a loop from Gimsim Family’s “Fear No Evil” with saccharine Vietnamese pop balladry. And while she’s rapped for Mona Evie before, Aprxel’s staccato bars on “inanna” feel more self-assured, cutting through Jersey-club bed squeaks.

Between the harsh noise of “terrorizers” and the angelic strings of “escape 2 farewell,” only Aprxel’s vocal performance holds Raid’s concoctions together. At times, her voice battles a flood of samples that threaten to drown her out. “cbd” is discordant, akin to Kelela’s infamous detuned 808 on “Closure.” But on “never can say goodbye,” Aprxel’s voice pierces through with startling clarity; on the following track, she puts a little Björk in it, the strings swelling to a poignant peak. Her voice fractures into shard-like vocables in the final section of “escape 2 farewell,” flitting alongside an extended sample of a demo by Kyoto glitch artist sora. Alone in a digital cacophony, Aprxel sings to ease the pain, hoping someone out there is listening. With a knack for adapting to the musical chaos that characterizes her hometown, Aprxel’s voice carries beyond the city; it’s only a matter of time before it’s heard.