Words: Graham Evans
Eve Rakow commanded the attention of South Africa’s music scene as the anti-pretty frontwoman of The Frown –Johannesburg’s electronic, neo-Gothic bastard child with 1990s New York rave scene. Rakow recently released Home Alone EP under the moniker Stolen Pony. The seven-song indulgence canvasses an array of Rakow’s musical and stylistic fancies. It explores everything from Tumblr-worthy 90s paraphernalia to ironic sad-happiness, but it holds nothing higher than the source of it all: the internet.
Home Alone EP encapsulates these online fantasies in a dark soundscape, lit only by Rakow’s eerie narration through apathy, nostalgia and boredom. Opener, ‘Boyfriend, Boyfriend’ tempts one into a relaxed lie down onto summer sand. Pitch-bendy melodies and “sun tan” references dance along with snare claps galore. Do not be fooled. Throughout the EP, the sun sets on what appeared to be summer bliss and is replaced by a ghostly moon reminiscent of a down-tempo and feminine Salem. ‘Operation’ heads this descent and ends in what Rakow calls “DIY Pillow Cry.” The song’s keyboard melodies juxtapose pop sensibilities with pseudo-scary lyrics like, “let’s open you up and have a look at what’s going on inside. Just one small incision, everything will be all right.” Purity Ring have mastered the art of the sweet and creepy in music, and Rakow does this in “Operation” with even sweeter creepiness.
There are, however, times when the album’s slow descent into sadness takes monotonous detours. ‘The Dark Place’ and its distorted shout-of-a-chorus would be evocative if played at double speed and louder in an actual dark place in Joburg, or even worse, Durban. However, on Home Alone EP it merely seems unexciting and sluggish. “W.W.L.D (What Would Lindsay Do)” is a playful and authentic shoutout to the Joburg DJ, but lacks the thoughtfulness needed for a satisfying end song. Its echoing drum repetition and drugged lyrics prompt comparison to those headache-inducing Crystal Castles demos that one forgets to uncheck when leaving Itunes on shuffle.
A comparison of Stolen Pony to Crystal Castles, and certainly Rakow to Alice Glass, ought not to end at their faults. ‘Fail Twins’ is unequivocally the greatest effort on this EP. It sports near-perfect sample composition and an angelically sung chorus: a fresh sound on an album with predominantly spoken vocals. Retelling stories of nostalgia and friendship, Rakow seems to inject a serum of feeling and beauty from Glass’s musical legacy of crazed electronic frenzies. In this sense, Stolen Pony exists like a youthful, naïve Crystal Castles. ‘Waiting for Christopher Wagner’ again shows Rakow at her musically prettiest. The song begins as a yearning resonance of patience, growing into an honest and simple synth tune.
‘I’m Dating the Internet Now’ speaks for itself. Over an introductory modem dial-up, Rakow confesses to a relationship that was never under wraps, but which few similar people admit with such humour and frankness. The video-game-video released with this single serves as a brain-numbing montage of every late night anyone ever spent online, only with snippets reminiscent of a gothic Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ ‘Californiacation’ first-person experience.
Nowadays, an existence indebted to the work of internet pioneers, Robert E. Kahn and Vint Cerf, is more the norm than it is exceptional. Cue everyone from Mark Zuckerberg to the supposed stars of the internet porn world. Indeed, Eve Rakow owes the internet just as much for Home Alone EP than she does her collaborator and mixer, Jonny Neon (Negative Youth). Even so, the shameless admittance of this debt makes Stolen Pony intriguing, worth more than the intermittent attention paid during a scroll through Facebook. It is unclear whether Stolen Pony is pastiche or genuine blend of the online universe – either way, South African music needed someone to soundtrack YouTube procrastination and Tumblr migraines.