Album Review: Kučka, ‘Wrestling’

    The proverb “good things come to those who wait” could have been invented for Kučka, otherwise known as Laura Jane Lowther. Her debut album, Wrestling, has been a long time coming: first announced almost two years ago, she had been on the radar as a rising producer of note for many years before even then. Her breakthrough led to collaborations with icons like Flume, SOPHIE, and A$AP Rocky, no mean feat for someone essentially just starting out.

    Her debut album arrives just as Lowther might be more settled than she’s ever been, living in Los Angeles with her wife, the visual artist and director Dillon Howl. Her childhood was marked by moving, from Northern England to Perth, Australia. It’s why the songs here are so concerned with transitions: of growing up, of finding one’s sexuality, of falling in and out of love, of moving across the country more than once. She never settles in one genre either, exploring everything from synthwave to glossy R&B to trip-hop. Whatever sounds she’s exploring, though, everything shimmers with a futuristic visionary quality. (While the dense layers on the self-produced Wrestling might overwhelm a casual observer, Lowther started out as a child of Garageband). 

    Mild euphoria is what Wrestling mainly deals in. 80s-inspired zigging synths power the passionate title and opening track, as she explores her main theme of wrestling with oneself internally, while ‘No Good For Me’, composed of a flashback UK garage beat, boasts hit potential. When the album does erupt a little though, as on the uplifting and enriching ‘Afterparty’, the glitchy texture and twinkling beat make for an enjoyable refresher. She whispers in strange tongues on the bamboozling ‘Joyride’, capturing the intense excitement of undertaking the act from its title. 

    Perhaps there was genuine worry as to whether Kučka, so often a collaborator of choice, a supporting player, could sustain herself over a solo full-length. And while help is on hand here – Vegyn (who assisted Frank Ocean on Blonde and Endless) lends production support on the eerie and slowed ‘Contemplation’ and Nosaj Thing features on the production for ‘Real’, a moody and introspective track that glistens with possibilities – Lowther is alluring and confident on her own at all times.

    Underneath everything, her voice is a flexible thing, often ethereal as one would expect (‘Wrestling’) but also empowering and assured (‘Ascension’). Perhaps it’s because she oscillates so much between believing in herself and doubting, although she usually lands at the former sentiment. The aptly named ‘Drowning’ captures that overwhelming feeling of being in the wrong place and needing to escape (no doubt Perth, the most isolated city in the world). Synthwave piece ‘Sky Brown’ is about being able to stand on your own and make it despite offers of love and help. “Stronger than I knew I could be/ Higher than I knew I could reach,” she asserts on ‘Contemplation’. “Make me feel like the only one who ever existed in your world,” she exults on ‘Your Words’, reflecting her happiness about finding someone after wandering for so long. 

    The last song, ‘Patience’, is also the album’s slowest. “Something is restless in me,” Lowther sighs; the beat is minimal and hesitant. It’s a good note to end on, as one hopes that Kučka doesn’t rest on her laurels after such a momentous debut. Through ‘Patience’, she seems to want to highlight that she’s restless in every manner; what else would you expect from someone who’s always been in transition?

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