In electronic music, sometimes it feels like you're either a producer or a singer. Attempts to bridge the gap between the two are as likely to fail spectacularly as they are to succeed. There are exceptions, of course, but for Natasha Kmeto both seem to come naturally. There's no doubt that the most distinctive thing about the Portland artist's music is her powerhouse voice, yet her productions are more than just a vehicle for it. Over a few years, Kmeto has souped up her cosmopolitan sound—touching on dubstep, trap, hip-hop, footwork—into something tempestuous and passionate. She finally lets loose on Crisis, her first record that comes close to matching the fury of her live performances.
Kmeto's last release, the Dirty Mind Melt EP, was as sexually charged as its name implied, but there was some crucial energy missing. Crisis doesn't fall too far from the same tree, yet somehow it feels fuller and more adventurous. Kmeto has more room to stretch out, and she gets to play with her instrumentals, building tension and pulling back. Thus we get the two-minute intro leading into the fantastic "Idiot Proof," dynamic and reflexive like human respiration as it swells in and out of sweetly chanted coos.
Sex hasn't left her mind either, if track titles like "Morning Sex" weren't obvious enough. But far from a crass or titillating device, these themes elevate her vocals beyond the transparent tropes of dance floor courting. "Who will be the one you're taking home tonight?" she asks accusingly on "Take Out," before questioning "don't I make it good for you?" over a beat that sways and thrusts like, well, you know. "All alone, that's what she wants to be, as she's kissing my lips again," she sings on "Last Time," as synth lines roil and ripple below.
The album ends with an outpouring of emotion via the Eurythmics-sized synth riff of "Prideless," a wounded whisper that proves her vocals can sound as tender as they are forcible. Here it suddenly becomes clear that she's nearly as good a producer as she is a singer: the deluxe synth textures almost distract from her vocals. That's what makes Crisis such a leap in quality for Kmeto: whether she's dipping deep into bass like in the past, or dabbling in plush house ("Vodka Diet"), she's finally got music to match her vocal talents. And while the LP still isn't quite the visceral experience that is watching her work up a sweat live, it's the closest she's come yet.