Lolina - The Smoke - Self Released

Lolina The Smoke review

Album front cover.

With Lolina, Alina Astrova of Inga Copeland and Hype Williams fame once again turns confessional narratives into glamorous absurdity.


From her beginnings as one half of Hype Williams (the other half being UK musician Dean Blunt), and later Inga Copeland, Alina Astrova has preserved an aura of mystery combined with a seemingly effortless approach to making music. Her use of various monikers, absurd origin stories, creative exploitation of commercial slogans, collaged dub, grime and dancehall clichés, serves as a prime example of myth-making, stretching the limits of intertextuality to the point where every definite statement is shown as unnecessary, every concept – unreliable. Precisely from that point Lolina builds rich meta-spaces and playgrounds for an ongoing reaction to stereotypes that form the basis of our reality.

While her previous album, Live In Paris (initially released in video format as a hybrid of performance and studio album), mostly dealt with the political implications of public spaces, The Smoke returns to the common tropes of female experience – which she has already tackled as Inga Copeland – and takes them further into glamorous absurdity. If Lolina seems a more reliable narrator than Inga, it's because she plays with the idea of confessional storytelling more directly. The impression of transparency is derived from vocal-centric song structures, the lightness of decomposed avant pop, and the straightforward lyrics through which Lolina assumes different versions of chaotic, playful naïveté. She obscures this vulnerability with an illusion of a coherent narrative imposed by song titles and samples that seem to mimic a '50s noir crime story.

The Smoke initially picks up where Live In Paris left off. In the opening, Roulette, Lolina once again roams the city, recklessness mixed with boredom over a loungey piano that feignly teases big questions of authenticity touched upon in the following Fake City, Real City. Most of the songs on the record create a vivid sense of movement through seedy places – whether it's empty streets at night, gas stations or The Club – each evoking a specific cliché that lends an atmosphere of amplified danger to the topics of dysfunctional love affairs and self-image. Within this formula, Style And Punishment represents a conceptual and sonic detour to the anxiety of an empty room in a possible inversion of Inga Copeland's Advice To Young Girls. It replaces the prescriptive tone with first-hand experiences of sneaking out at night, preserving the image of a good girl in the confines of a strict relationship: „My clothes they're looking tidy when you dress me up / Underneath the bed a dress for going out“. In terms of sound, the simple lo-fi beat and buzzing, screeching synth melodies, counterbalanced with clear production, very much hint at the rawness of bedroom genres, perhaps even black metal. The moody cinematic r'n'b of The River propels the sense of captivity established in Style and Punishment into one of pure chase („I take my heels off and I run like no tomorrow“), before settling into wonky reggae-dancehall reminiscent of The Missing Evidence. The catchiest song on the album, A Path Of Weeds And Flowers, is where Lolina's skill in making beatless club music comes to the fore. Finely textured dancey r'n'b and electronica create an obliviously cheerful vibe that suits the role of a girl torn between unsolicited attention and a demand to justify it that can only be resolved on the dancefloor as the modulated voice informs us that „all roads lead to the club“. She continues to throw out banal phrases in the last two tracks. The sci-fi goth synths of Murder capture the eeriness of blunt, self-indulgent instability („Assist me with my problems“), while a disaffected proclamation of camaraderie („All for one and one for all“) fades into mellow criticism in the closer, Betrayal.

On The Smoke Lolina shifts personas and music styles, creating wildly catchy songs out of cheesy and downright weird sounds. The treatment of numerous pop culture references and genre tropes makes it very tempting to read this album as a well crafted subversion, but what it perhaps does best is it reflects a prevailing sense of uncertainty. There is no definitive statement, only enjoyment of the game and identification of its mechanisms.

Lolina - The Smoke - Self Released

01 Roulette
02 Fake City, Real City
03 Style and Punishment
04 The River
05 The Missing Evidence
06 A Path Of Weeds And Flowers
07 Murder
08 Betrayal

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