Lykke Li – EYEYE
Swedish artist Lykke Li’s work has been defined as a blend of pop and electronics, but with the release of EYEYE, such tags seem unjustly reductive, as genre labelling often is. Li reunites with long-time collaborator Björn Yttling for an album accompanied by a visual project, featuring seven film loops for certain snippets of audio. Directed by Theo Lindquist and shot on 16mm film by Edu Grau, the videos are intended as fragments of a larger narrative, compressing romantic obsession, addiction and fantasy into rich, cinematic vignettes.
The analogue videos may be short, but they plunge deep. Highly saturated reds and blues raise concentrated emotions, and the effect creates a sensation of stretched periods of painful repetition. The drunken, handheld camera and distorted images leave the viewer/listener uncertain of where the visual actually ends and restarts, epitomising the missed warnings that leave one stuck in seemingly eternal cycles. Paradoxically, the watcher realises they are not loops one wants to escape.
Li set strict rules when it came to audio: no click tracks, headphones or digital instruments, and vocals were recorded on a handheld drum mic. The result? The tracks are as intimate and imperfect as voice memos, echoing with a haunting placidity. It’s Li pixie-like vocals that set the tone of a wispy, heavy-hearted dream state, especially in Happy Hurts, with its feathery transitions from airy verses to a dazed, electronic bridge. Carousel carries a similar ethereality, repetitions of feeling caught under someone’s hurtful spell, lyricised delicately, that float into a beautiful flute-like melody. The two naked figures also revolve around themselves in the visual loop for this track, a heavenly yet animalistic blurring of flesh as they entwine and separate in a rich red enclosure, spinning eternally.
The tracks are not so much narrative as cinema, drawing from the cores of fluctuating emotions, rather than the specifics of a story, and made all the more human by the vocal flaws that haven’t been erased. That being said, Li’s vocals are exquisite in ü&i, a closing track that replays the line “the movie is you and I”. It unfolds as a movie would, with different scenes, some toned down, others heated up into a sonorous culmination of the layers heard so far, be it the lingering trails of harmony in No Hotel, the pleading synths of Highway to Your Heart, or the haunting, clamorous beat of Over. It’s a weightless sweep of ambience, whilst feeling like a scream that has been worn down by all the time passed in these hurtful loops. This track, and EYEYE for that matter, is a movie, but by no means a painless one, which one feels intensely, in its tender lustfulness and its intoxicating glow.
EYEYE’s every element is hyper-sensory. Watching and listening (and it’s worth doing both) feels like a hypnotic inhalation of Li’s luminous, dizzying artistry. She might have chosen loops, but EYEYE won’t grow old with repetition sooner than it deserves.
EYEYE is released on 20th May 2022. For further information or to order the album visit Lykke Li’s website here. The album is available in Hi-Res on Qobuz and all the major streaming services.
Watch the video for the single Highway to Your Heart here: