The world of Coucou Chloe is nebulous and unsparing. What should be familiar genre trappings have all curdled; beats are rendered as either austere, skeletal fragments or overripe, all-consuming frenzies while harmless lyrical allusions to partying have been warped into pitch-shifted monstrosities. Her ability to turn the mundane into the unsettling is awesome, in the sense of truly inspiring awe. The act of ice skating has never been more bone-chilling than it is in the visual for her 2017 track “Flip U” – a top YouTube commenter put it best by wondering if they would die seven days after watching it.
Naughty Dog, her latest EP released via her self-founded label NUXXE, distills her brand of queasy club-pop into its most accessible form yet (though by her standards, that’s still not exactly ‘fun for the whole family’ accessible). While underground purists may bemoan the shift away from the heavily experimental quality that marked her earlier releases – the sound collage of 2016’s “Doom,” notably tapped by Rihanna to soundtrack the Fenty x Puma SS18 runway show, serving as a visceral standard of this formative era – working in a more pop-adjacent realm allows Chloe’s strong melodic instincts to blossom (or perhaps, wilt?) with greater impact.
Lead single “Gecko” is the strongest of the project’s offerings, bridging her avant-garde sensibilities to one of the most immediately memorable hooks in her catalog. A simple “na na na” refrain delivered in a deadpan so deceased it’s practically rotting encircles the track like vultures in search of equally rotting carrion, making for a stark contrast with the lively whirling dervish of beats at play. That a soundboard featuring barking dogs is among the least conspicuous elements of this track speaks volumes to the densely layered cacophony; it’s a balancing act that constantly teeters on the verge of being overwhelming without ever succumbing to an overload.
While “Gecko” may function as the tightest bit of song craft, it is well surpassed by “Juicy” in the criteria of twerkability. Featuring an instantly ‘grammable chorus of “Baby you were right I’m just fucked up/ Maybe you were right I don’t give a fuck,” it’s enlivened by guest verses from Shygirl, a fellow rising member of London’s underground and one of Chloe’s NUXXE signees. Offering up a sampling of mumble rap in a perfectly posh dialect, her appearance brings a human element to Chloe’s otherwise strictly mechanized, ghoulish universe. Not that there’s anything wrong with this universe of course, but it makes its surreality all the more pronounced by adding what sounds like a normal human into the mix.
The EP’s only other feature is from Lederrick, a producer known for his affiliation with Lil Peep’s Gothboiclique. While closing track “Waiting” is no where near as forthright as any of his work with that collective, the downtempo, guitar-heavy production immediately signifies it as an outlier on the EP. It works in the context of its sequencing, but it would otherwise feel like a misfire – it’s the only moment that doesn’t wholly belong to Coucou Chloe or fit in with her firmly established sonic palette. Chloe handled the majority of the production on this project, and it is jarring to have such a profoundly different ear manage duties behind the booth, particularly when there are only five songs off of which to base a uniform whole.
Indeed, if I have a chief complaint of Coucou Chloe’s Naughty Dog, it is that it is simply not long enough. I don’t mean this in a hokey way, as a means of shirking real criticism to spin a negative quality into an asset, but I mean it in earnest. Chloe has the mark of a true original, an artist whose persona is magnetic in its ability to unsettle while delivering a product that is not just unique but otherworldly. In the dark times in which we live, she is the freaky, dead-eyed prophet of booty-shaking while feeling scared that we both deserve and need. Here’s looking to what comes next.