For an album hailed as ‘otherworldly’ THEESatisfaction’s sophomore effort EarthEE is a tad plain. With respect to their entirely ambitious song names from the likes of Prophetic Perfection and Universal Perspective I found the sound and lyrical themes a bit self-effacing at times, and more so than in their ludic 2012 debut AwE NaturalE.
Relapse to 2013. The first impression I got of THEESatisfaction, the musical duo based in Seattle composed of Stasia Irons and Catherine Harris-White, was the joyfully daring QueenS music video posted by their label Sub Pop on youtube. The video presents the coolheaded black lesbian musicians at an almost solely female party lush with extravagant selfhood expressed through large flamingo earrings, purple gauze gloves, a large lollypop budget and red lipstick galore. Peculiar accessories aside, the duo is shown flashed in two different states. They shift flawlessly from relaxed couch bound certitude reminiscent of the females portrayed in orientalist paintings to dancing hard enough to spite every killjoy, all over the earworm ‘don’t funk with my groove’. It was novel and hyper-excitatory.
Back to the present timeline, when I heard of their newest musical conjunction being described by NPR MUSIC as a ‘cosmic, funky dance party’ I was expecting more of this confident striding fluidity through styles on EarthEE. To my dismay this all but unlearnable, seemingly improvised duality and spontaneity that carries itself through the first album seems very diminished on EarthEE. A perfect example of this very evident change of tempo would be the video of the leading single off this album, Recognition. The look in the eyes of the revolving placid yet enlightened black faces in the video show that the artists seem to forego youthful chaos for spiritual wisdom. But how compelling is this calm psychedelically dissociative wisdom? Does it still STAND OUT as their jiving anthem QueenS originally did for me?
The album bustles its way to the starting line and sits down to meditate as the firing gun blasts. The opening song Prophetic Perfection provides no prophecy but only questions between birds and water, as if from an ancient Taoist poem. Possibly insightful. The droning synths and drum patterns seemingly echoing across a vast void ebb throughout the album to a stoner’s merit but unfortunately without ENOUGH distinction. When I say without ENOUGH distinction I mean that after having listened to the album thoroughly you wouldn’t recall one track from the other (with the exception to idiosyncratic songs such as Recognition and No GMO). Another tiny flaw in these ‘background beats’ is that they do little to beautifully disguise Cat’s smooth (but more of a complimentary), small ranging voice. As the album nears its inevitable fate (So we should all just relax!!), her verses begin to drag on.
On a slightly more positive note, as this album’s message is so diaphanously positive, her counterpart Stasia’s monotone verses combobulated from rather disorienting socio-political issues of inherent meaning, such as sexuality (FetchCatch, Nature’s Candy), environmentalism (planet for sale) and everyday work (Werq), are created with a dextrous grip on words, remarkable conviction and a more personal dimension than Cat’s almost shamanesque symbolic language. In contrast, by the end of the album I was left desiring more of Stas’s personality.
The hip hop verses truly are the most striking part of the album and the handful of impeccable features, notably Shabazz Palaces on BlandLand, give the album a gritty vocal edginess. It could use more of this edginess, as opposed to drifting synthetic R&B segments with aphoristic topics such as release and questioning (contradictory?). The album ends with the song I Read You on a stimulating but unaffecting note. I believe the album is a negative progression from their stellar debut project but I think artistic evolution is necessary and maybe change will manifest more positively, for me, on their next project.
EarthEE does not perforate consciousness. It is good cushiony background music but despite all the interesting journalistic whims that have come from trying to classify the album verbally, the feelings evoked from this album are ones you have already felt. The album is more routine than entrancing, more melatonin than psychedelic. That is not to say dreamy sleep cannot be nice. I recommend listening to this album as a whole, but I doubt you’ll be up listening to it vexedly into the night. That in itself may be, as THEESatisfaction’s EarthEE indubitably is, a positive thing.