Summer may be grinding to a close but Canadian electronic DJ and producer Whipped Cream is making sure it goes out with a bang. Her debut, Who Is Whipped Cream?, is one of the best electronic albums to drop this year, a collection of intensely danceable tracks showcasing the broad stylistic range of this versatile artist.
Whipped Cream, otherwise known as Caroline Cecil, hails from the west coast of Canada. The Vancouver-based Cecil spent her youth carving out a career in figure skating, which was brought to an abrupt end due to an accident on the ice at the age of 18. It brought her figure skating career to a tragic close, but she soon found a new purpose in applying the intense concentration of her professional sports training into learning how to produce music. Now a sought-after DJ, her debut album reveals the exciting ways she's poised to innovate electronic dance music, even in this era of shuttered clubs and social distancing.
The album builds slowly, opening with two gentler tracks. There's a sense of lurking menace beneath the otherwise warm beats and dreamy, spoken lyrics of "Us", carried along into the R&B-inflected "I Won't Let You Fall" (featuring Finn Askew).
The album kicks into heavier action with "Do I", featuring the additional talents of Mulatto and Baby Goth. A swirl of heavy beats, aggro tones, and confident, in-your-face rap, it offers a signature sample of the dark electronic hip-hop that Whipped Cream pulls off so magnificently. It's followed by the slower, anthemic "IDFC" (featuring Ravenna Golden). "WRK" returns to the dark electronics, a fast and heavy dance track which edges on the industrial and EBM. "Dumb Shit", with Jasiah is slower but even more aggressive, an onslaught of expletive yelling that combines aggro vocals with taut, restrained dancefloor rhythms.
"I Do the Most" (with Lil Keed) exercises a similar restraint, offering up exquisitely delivered rap with a symphonic undercurrent evocative of 1990s electro. "Told Ya" (with Lil Xan) is a masterful piece of hip-hop, haunting background rhythms contrasting perfectly with playful, heavy beats. The final track, "So Thick" (featuring Baby Goth) was featured earlier this year on the brilliant Birds of Prey soundtrack. It's an intensely danceable track with a dark synth edge complementing the exquisitely delivered rap vocals.
Two key elements leap out at the listener. The first is the album's versatility; nothing is dull or monotonous here. Cecil showcases her ability as a producer by ensuring a diversity of content, which nonetheless coheres as an album. There are elements of rap, EBM, R&B, dark electro, and pop, all blended with virtuoso skill. The album is short -- just under 30 minutes delivered in nine compact songs -- but the listener doesn't feel short-changed at all. The tracks are edited with manifest skill, pared down to their core dancefloor essence. The short, succinct pieces convey the confidence of an artist who feels no need to show off or pad their work with superfluous, dragged out tracks. Everything is stated with a concision that cuts nothing short yet wastes no time in repetitive wandering. The album's musical versatility is echoed by its range of guest performers, who likewise offer tight, perfectly delivered lyrical contributions in a variety of vocal styles: R&B, hip-hop, pop.
The other element is the dark edge that holds the album together. Whether grinding slow or pounding out intense BPM, the dark electronic aura that pervades the entire product. That gives it a consistency that adapts brilliantly to the performers' unique styles. Cecil holds the album's darker edge firmly in check, keeping her tracks aloof from genre convention in a manner that evades easy pigeon-holing. But the sense of dark potential is there throughout, emerging sparingly and often unexpectedly in lyrics, beats, harmonies, vocal effects. It's an appropriate vibe for our present moment, one in which even the bright skies of summer are tinged with fear as we struggle through this current difficult moment.