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Senni: Persona (Warp)

Senni’s profile has been slowly but steadily rising over the past
several years. His personal brand of spry, bright synthesis has
gradually evolved over his previous two albums into the bright,
pop-infused arrangements of Persona, a big leap toward pop music
accessibility even when compared to his previous outing, 2014’s
Superimpositions on Boomkat Editions
. At first blush, it’s noticeable
that opener “Win in the Flat World” has a distinctly different
flavor from the arpeggios of Superimpositions. It still fidgets with
a similar nervous energy, but instead of existing in its own odd
vacuum, it feels directly inspired by the often goofier and brighter
gestures of contemporary EDM and grime in ways that are so much more
overt. The anthemic stabs of the opener recall the spirit of Rustie,
Sophie, or Oneohtrix Point Never, with its lower end chords
punctuating the patterns and feeling like percussion, when in fact
it’s entirely synths and no “drum” programming so to speak at
all. Senni himself identified Rustie’s Glass Swords as an influence,
and it’s no surprise once you hear the stabby bright chords that
start off the album. That brightness and flirtation with the refrain
and catchiness of pop and club music is likely to open Senni’s music
up to a far broader audience, and yet it’s still somewhat a trompe de
l’oreille; when you really pay attention, Senni is still rocking
modular arps as his sole means of generating his sounds, and any
aural illusion of beats or more layered sounds is purely implied. And
yet I find myself at times yearning for the element of surprise that
endeared me to Superimpositions so much. Once Senni’s showed his hand
the first time, his techniques and productions feel less special. Add
to it that Persona veers more into mainstream pop in its sensibility
(or perhaps the illusion of mainstream pop flirtation), and it starts
to fall far closer to the effervescent, reduced anthems of Sophie’s
PRODUCT release. I suspect that listeners disappointed by PRODUCT
will prefer the more finely honed approach herein by Senni, where it
feels less like a looping of concepts and instead more of an earnest
sprawl to honor his musical instincts.

It’s curious to hear this
right around the same time Oval’s released his Popp album, which also
borrows from and is inspired by dance music and club culture. Oval’s
tracks feel like an all-in bringing of joyous noise, while Persona
feels subtractive and gets to the essence of what dance anthems are
about. A track like “emotiva1234” springs and sproings around in
a jovial way, only occasionally subverted by its own weird
synthesis tweaks (I’m reminded of the spryest moments of Cylob’s late
90s output on Rephlex), and its liveliness via nervous energy is
infectious. Senni slows the pace by the time the album is approaching
its final moments, with the more patient insistence of “Angel”
and then the gentler still denouement of “Forever True.” Compared
to the nervous twitchiness of Superimpositions, Persona is more
approachable and feels more jubilant, less technical and more
enthusiastic. While it may not make my head spin in the same way, if
only by virtue of being familiar with Senni’s music already, Persona
is likely a more accessible entry point for those curious about his
abstractions of dance-pop and club music into something more skeletal
and punctuated.

Buy it: Warp Records