This is hard to explain, but I promise that Elysia Crampton has recorded some of the most ecstatic and staggering music you’ll hear all year. There’s a deep spiritual undercurrent to her new album that elevates it far beyond mere conceptual music. This connects to my heart, my head, and my gut, rendering me speechless.
The album is only 30 minutes, but covers a galaxy of feeling that I’m feeling unprepared to describe this morning. Just listen if you want to hear something startling and beautiful.
These four tracks float over a lush synth ocean, often launching an artillery of synth horns and sublimely disruptive vocal shards. I’m reminded of Gregorian chants and the trunk-rattling, THX-approved production of Dr. Dre in the same moment. The purely electronic creation bursts to life from the husk of an ancient tree.
The music takes equal inspiration from the aesthetics of South American cumbia and Southern hip-hop, humming with proggy synthscapes and the displaced ghosts of Lil Jon, digital gunshots, and the neon glow of midi horns.
American Drift is outsider art in a sense, yet it’s inexorably tethered to distinct cultural, historical, and geographical anchors. The Bolivian-born Crampto grew up between Mexico and California, and currently resides in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia; her music expresses her tactile connection to the land.
The music also, in a way, expresses her ascendant story as a transgender artist who’s completing her physical journey at the same moment her music has evolved into something infinitely deeper than the alien pop edits that I’d heard before.
She elaborates perfectly:
“Transitioning has been full of so many surprises. I’m so humbled and moved by people’s care and concern, and the level they go to facilitate, or accommodate or to try to understand. I transitioned in my coming up as an artist and so that’s weird because when you’re coming up, you want that visibility, but you also have people looking at you right in this moment where you’re transitioning. It’s a strange thing being looked at for music or art and then also transitioning in that light. But for any fear that could be associated with that, it’s been very positive for me. The amount of girls and trans folk that have reached out to me as fans and as trans brothers and sisters has been amazing, and I’m so grateful for the visibility. I’ve also realized the power of trans visibility and being very vocal about my experience of transitioning.”
“I don’t think there’s much media coverage of trans artists. When they do, it’s problematic in the sense that media still looks at trans people in this drag queen kind of way where they’re put on as divas and it’s all about the objectivity of their corporeality and not necessarily the objectivity of their work. It’s like looking at a trans body still needs digestion. But of course any kind of digestion is good. Trans visibility creates the space for us to actually exist and not be killed. I can go to Walmart and know I’m not going to get shot down for showing up in the wrong outfit.”
So I hope I’ve done an okay job mentioning this fascinating and relevant aspect of her story. The music is always my focus, but it’s important to know where it comes from, how it happens, and why it means something.
I’ve been living inside American Drift on repeat all morning. It’s a Saturday in August, but I can’t peel myself away from this sound. It’s not every day that I discover something so kinetically addictive yet profoundly moving.
Earlier I mentioned alien pop edits; I can’t let you leave without hearing her brilliant deconstruction of Justin Bieber’s As Long As You Love Me. This twists the chromed bubblegum of the original into a yearning nighttime hallucination. It ends in a toilet flush. It’s perfect.
So you can listen to the album on Soundcloud all you want, but it’s also dropping on vinyl this month at Bleep.com – I’ve reserved my copy. American Drift is also on Spotify, so do that if you aren’t into the whole physical music thing. Just listen however you can, because this is some of the most vital new music you could hear today.