A hard-hitting exploration of abuse.
"Breathe," the lead track from the new EP by Pale Blue, AKA Elizabeth Wight and Mike Simonetti, features the most potent breakdown I've recently heard. About four minutes in, the acid line that had powered this house track is allowed to fade, revealing the naked intimacy of Wight's voice. "Burning fire and blood," she sings, her voice straining with distortion. "I just want to breathe." Silence. Four seconds pass. "I just want to breathe." More silence. Then, suddenly, a new, louder beat and bassline surge forward. The second gut-punch arrives when you learn of Wight's subject matter: the physical and psychological abuse women suffer at the hands of men, apparently drawing on "some of the darkest chapters of her life."
"Is my body mine?" Wight asks on "I Walk Alone At Night." "Is my fear real?" Over a jackhammer beat and barbed bassline she empties the contents of a mind riven by dread, sharing that she keeps a knife by her bed. "Don't let myself be a target," we hear as the rhythm switches to a breakbeat. "But I'm no less a woman if I am." The drums flip back to a four-on-the-floor stomp. "When I finally find you... you'll get what you deserve." (I want to acknowledge that, as a man, I can only begin to imagine the headspace Wight is describing here.)
A trio of remixes offer different yet similarly hard-hitting angles on the originals. In addition to a sharp acid version of "I Walk Alone At Night," the New York DJ Olive T. steps out for her debut production. It's a jackin' house remix of "Breathe," which piles pressure on the low-end and finishes with a paranoid synth workout. Lauren Flax's version of the same track initially seems optimistic, its robotic synths cartwheeling over the beat, but the mood is tempered by keys that sound lost in thought. As with all these tracks, it can be difficult to reconcile Wight's message with beats that suggest dancing and abandon. But this tension is perhaps why Breathe feels so vital.