Embark on a charming and challenging journey with LIN, as the musical hues of Gradient paint a powerful portrait of connection, determination, and the desperate need for change – all done with electrifying energy.
LIN is unapologetically true to herself – a refreshing trait in an age where some artists readily placate the will of others (such as label execs or a broader target audience) at the expense of their creativity and integrity. The German artist has a clear and burning desire to promote acceptance, inspire unity, and tear down social and cultural shackles that inhibit the quality of life and treatment of queer people – or indeed anyone oppressed by prevalent cis-heteronormative structures. This modus operandi shines resplendent on Gradient, her first full-length record. It combines the provocative and political into nine tracks of glistening vitality that expand on the music and message of her EP Colours. As “Chameleon” puts it, ‘I cannot change my colours/I am what I’ve become’, and this is in no way a bad thing.
The poppy hooks and buzzing electronica that drive this lively record are entirely the handiwork of LIN herself and nobody else. Every snare, string, synth, and syllable poured out on Gradient has been joyfully and painstakingly compiled by LIN and her core collective of instruments. The result is truly a spectrum of sound; while the music may be danceable and largely upbeat, an attentive ear will discern spearheading lyrics that paint boldly poignant pictures of sexuality, struggles, and society’s need for ‘new norms, ’cause new norms lead us to new beliefs’.
The instrumentation that underlies LIN‘s vocals on Gradient sees swathes of texture used to great effect. Layered synths and crisp percussion help to create full-bodied songs that feel rich, sparkling with nuance without ever feeling bloated. Alongside these digitised features, LIN incorporates guitar and bass parts that give that physicality and tangible crunch to the expansive palette of sound – an element that I imagine pays its biggest dividends on the stage. This marriage of organic and digital works wonders for the dynamics of the songs, whether in the crackling energy of the impervious “Call Me What You Want” or the deep house pulse of grandiose closer “Seven Sisters”.
You see, there’s lots to admire in the details of Gradient, but they neither detract nor distract from any song as a whole. Opening track “Queer Lover” is a fantastic and frank opening statement from LIN and punctuates its reverberating message and music with moments of silence to enhance a verbalised sense of empowerment. The subterranean heartbeat throughout the course of “Bold” grounds an otherwise ethereal song, while “Atlas” is another fine example of LIN‘s sublime structuring: electronic shudders and echoing plucks conjure cloud-top images, with LIN deftly weaving together harmonised pleas to ‘treat me as if I could fall’ with the refrain ‘I cannot wait for you to make up your mind’ as this airy track draws to a close. Whether rooted and rumbling or lofty and light, atmosphere abounds wherever you turn on Gradient.
While injecting such abundance into music is simple enough to realise in a recording environment – especially for a creative force of one such as LIN – replicating it in a live setting could prove less viable…for some. However, with the aid of loop stations and footswitches, LIN has been able to construct a central station of sorts from which she commands her live shows with the same vigour and vibrancy as the record itself. It’s worth experiencing at one of her upcoming shows, but if that isn’t feasible you can witness LIN conduct her solitary symphony of sound below, utilised in her excellent and personally symbolic video for bass-driven anthem “Fight Girl”.
Accompanying the modern shine of the instrumentals is the confident vocal delivery that LIN serves up. Her powerfully forthright messages are conveyed through evocative tunes and refrains that are not only designed to get you thinking, but to get you moving. Sometimes mysterious and sultry (“Ablution”), often sweet sounding (“TPIP”), vocals are always prominent enough in the mix to be appreciated fully. This matters if listeners are to engage with harmonious melodies and those lyrics that invite deep thought and challenge perceptions: ‘Do you really need a border/That makes me cross a line?/To put things back to order/Just so you feel fine’ is one of many instances of this. Lyrically, there’s a lot to unpack, and it’s best discovered first-hand from the mouth of the creator as you listen to the results of her experiences.
Gradient is a solid debut full-length from LIN. It’s also a well-chosen title, as the musical shades and tones presented here are not simply segmented into individually impressive compartments. Rather, they are crafted to blend and blur into a single entity that holds your attention as it transitions between moods and motifs. With any luck, LIN‘s appealingly colourful manner of making music that also has something substantial to say will reach afar, impacting not just those who identify and empathise with her, but perhaps most crucially those who might oppose Gradient‘s key messages.
Artist photo: CAPADOL