The music of HAAi is instantly recognisable; the producer and DJ, real name Teneil Throssell, has become known for productions that interweave moments of rave rapture and heavy rhythms to create a feeling of optimism and sanctuary. Her breakthrough 2020 EP ‘Put Your Head Above The Parakeets’ was a concise four-track that mixed tight beats with scudding bass and quietly euphoric melodies. Compared to the sprawling, vulnerable beauty of her debut album ‘Baby, We’re Ascending’, her previous releases now feel somewhat reserved.
Listening to ‘Baby, We’re Ascending’, released on iconic label Mute [Depeche Mode, New Order], is like running your hands over the sticky glued edges of a scrapbook or collage; you can feel where all the bits are stuck together, but you also have a sense of the work as a whole, an impressive collection of different things given new meaning together. Prior to finding her lane as an artist, which included a stint DJing at London club Phonox before trying her hand at production, Throssell was also in a psych band when she first moved to London from Australia. ‘Baby, We’re Ascending’ feels like the culmination of many years of finding oneself, a point at which to gesture: ‘so this is me, then’.
It’s also just as obliquely personal as a collage; the ephemera stuck together hold a unique meaning for the artist but have wholly new connotations. Tracks like ‘AM’, album opener ‘Channels’ and ‘Louder Always Better’ are stitched together like a faltering ‘I love you’. ‘Louder Always Better’, in particular, moves through hefty drones to eager breakbeats that run away before they’re able to contain themselves, moments of melodic samples breaking into the cacophony to add their piece.
‘Baby, We’re Ascending’s personal feeling is only strengthened by the fact that she has invited in outside collaborators for the first time, right down to utilising a mix engineer for the album. She said that the decision to do everything herself previously was partly a way to counter the prejudice that non-male producers don’t produce their own tracks. “As a non-male artist, that happens more often, so I was like, if I’m doing everything from start to finish on my music, I can always back myself up,” she recently told NME.
The collaborations on the album sparkle: Hot Chip‘s Alexis Taylor’s voice on ‘Biggest Mood Ever’ is sweetly tender, the intimate lyrics shielded by reverberated beats and echoed effects. On ‘Human Sound’, poet and activist Kai-Isaiah Jamal recites a passionate ode to the dancefloor (“fingers find themselves either the fist or the gun”), acknowledging the refuge that the space can offer for marginalised people from the violence of the world. The title track with Jon Hopkins is the highlight; the song pulses with expectation from the second it starts, optimistically euphoric. Throssell herself sings, “I’m caught up in your wave/They’re crashing right on time” before an ascending bass lifts the piece upwards.
As a whole, ‘Baby, We’re Ascending’ feels as though it was made to carry you through the tender transition from night to daybreak, watching the sun rise as you ride the bus home. It’s light and transcendent, but also grounded and assured of itself even in its most vulnerable moments.
- Release date: May 27
- Record label: Mute
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