You're gonna want to give "Colonizer," the latest single from NYC glitch pop duo HDLSS, a few good listens. Its textured melodies and hiss-sung vocals pull you in from the start, but there's a whole lot going on beneath the surface—tropical rhythms, a Steve Reich "drumming" piece nod in the intro, a Toni Morrison sample, and incisive lyrics like "I take your race away / And there you are all strung out / And all you got is your little self / and what is that?"
The track's richly complex composition is just the point. "Colonizer" is a vivid takedown of paradox and cultural appropriation in pop, at moments evoking a rhythmic and thematic heir to Nicolas Jaar's "No." Like first single "False Flag," and much of the rest of the group's forthcoming album DUMB, "Colonizer" straddles the cerebral and the visceral with chilling precision. Here's what HDLSS had to tell Noisey about the song:
"We use a lot of subtle musical references to try to get our point across. As the song formed, we realized that lyrically it was about cultural appropriation. So, as a parody of the trend in white pop music to use tropical rhythms right now, we combined different elements from dancehall to create the same sort of effect while singing about colonization and white guilt. It's funny to see college kids dancing to Diplo or Beiber one night, and protesting celebrity Halloween costumes another, as this type of appropriation is still 'acceptable. I don't think it's necessarily people mocking those cultures, but rather it's people missing having a culture of their own, so stealing it becomes profitable. There is a demand to find fresh exciting new things in other cultures when we're swimming in a dead coral reef. It's like mental and cultural colonization. Also, the intro is a reference to Steve Reich's 'drumming' piece, which for us is like the end of Western music, which felt appropriate. Like, we have no choice but to steal from "foreign" cultures since Western art has gone to the extremes of Warhol or Mondrian or Steve Reich; where else is there to move forward? Strangely enough those are some of our favorite artists though, so its complicated. Western art reflects Western culture, an unsustainable downward trajectory, but it's still beautiful, like a fire. It's like our culture ate itself, can we have yours? But they don't ask, I guess."
Listen to the premiere of HDLSS's "Colonizer" below, and look out for DUMB out August 4.
Andrea Domanick is Noisey's West Coast Editor. Follow her on Twitter.