For the past two years, L.A.-based duo Magdalena Bay have been releasing “synth pop straight from the simulation.” The Charli XCX and Grimes mashup they posted on SoundCloud last year says everything about their influences: jittery, body-moving electro-futurism and Y2K-era PC visuals. On “Chaeri,” the first single off their upcoming debut, they trade the crisp, glitzy textures that used to dominate their music for transhuman negative spaces. Synths, bass, and a pulse-like techno beat set the ambience as Mica Tenenbaum’s quivering vocals channel space-age vixens or whispering fortune tellers. Here, the duo sounds more polished than DIY, and if listening to them used to feel like dancing in latex jumpsuits, it’s now more like floating in a space dystopia.
The opening lines make it clear that “Chaeri” is all about looking back: “Regrets/The things I should’ve said.” Surreal imagery (like fruits on bedsheets) is sprinkled over the song’s self-interrogation of a former friendship with the eponymous Chaeri, while the repeated refrain (“Chaeri, please/You’re killing me”) is a desperate hand outstretched toward an impossible reconciliation. Magdalena Bay has always been nostalgic—and as their sounds push toward the future, it seems that they will always keep an eye on the past.