When perusing the realm of electronic music, it always feels special to find a producer who successfully conveys emotions through synths, drums, and manipulated vocals. That emotion is often lost through fine-tuning production to sound dancefloor-friendly, but French producer Oklou has a gift for giving listeners a top-tier listening experience while allowing us to get familiar with our own demons. In the same vein as acts such as Purity Ring and some of Crystal Castles’ earlier work, Oklou has a knack for communicating empty emotions with precision and honesty.
With co-signs from Bok Bok and Sega Bodega, Oklou made her production debut in 2014 under the moniker Loumar with the self-released single “Chrysalis,” where she utilizes rave-inspired synths and heavily edited vocals for a particularly raw listening experience. It comes from her Avril EP released in the same year, with a description that simply reads “my first release.” The cover art features a deer lying dead in the bottom of a pool, communicating the vibe of the 6-track EP effectively. The next year, she dropped a two-sided release titled oklou first tape, with the first track being a blissful ambient soundbath, while the second features rapid-fire arpeggiated synths for six minutes.
Listeners saw the next Oklou release as an EP in collaboration with Canadian producer Casey MQ, titled For the Beasts. Through four deeply personal electronic memoirs, the pair succeeds in making listeners feel the sheer power of raw emotions spilling out from left and right in the form of downtempo experimental electronic sounds. These feelings are best felt on “Dawn,” a tune that harkens back to our earliest childhood memories blanketed by just the right amount of sadness to hit us where it hurts. It’s delightfully painful, in a sense — it’s a consistent theme throughout Oklou’s impressive discography, and she’s dedicated to pulling her own personal experiences to maintain that genuine sound.
One of Oklou’s standout singles, “Samuel,” is a window into the intricacies of her lonely soul. Through auto-tuned vocals and polyrhythmic drums, Oklou paints a tense picture disguised by pretty sounds that effectively speak to isolated hearts everywhere. This loneliness runs rampant on the entirety of The Rite Of May, her latest EP released through NUXXE. “The title has a lot of different influences and personal meanings,” she said to Dazed Digital. “A lot of things related to my childhood. Everything gravitates around all the emotions linked to that moment of my life, and how I’m trying to deal with them, through the love I have for others, for my family, my first loves, my friends, and myself. These are sacred things to me.”
Her latest single, “Xternal Locus,” just came out last week and features Chynna on the relaxed, chill-trap beat. Oklou doesn’t appear until much later in the tune, laying down her signature soft, laidback vocals on her distorted percussion and strings. I have to admit, after listening to her entire discography, I truly wish there was more. Oklou has paved her own lane through remaining genuine in her sound throughout her music career, and it really shows when you peruse her small, but powerful catalog. Listen to five selects below.