The fact that I am friends with the person who wrote this song in no way diminishes it from being absolutely bullshit amazing. ‘I Want U’ may not be the first song Alison Wonderland has put out under one of her various electronic pseudonyms, but to my mind, it’s certainly the one which captures the insane potential she has had percolating in that pint-sized frame of hers for far too long. It is the absolute coming together of all of the disparate and wonderful influences that Wonderland has been blending into her live sets for years, as she clocks up road hours across the country and the world in search of the sound that not only moves a dancefloor to a frenzy, but also stays with them long after they’ve left the party. It’s a balance that’s incredibly difficult to achieve, and one that was possible for electronic artists that feature heavily in almost every Alison Wonderland live set (like LCD Soundsystem and The Knife) because of their initial niche status. By contrast, Wonderland is really becoming a mass appeal figure. She sells out nationwide tours in hours. Diplo asks her to record sets for his international radio show. Pulling these two competing desires together, to be intelligent in your writing but reach the masses with your production style, is no easy feat. And yet, here we are. I played this song 14 times yesterday, no joke.
It’s something I’ve mentioned before, but if you’re going to make your name as a DJ, it helps if you have an incredible set of ears. Wonderland eats music from every corner of the spectrum, with a background in classical music, a major in indie rock bass playing and a CD wallet that must literally be falling apart from overuse after all the gigs she’s played in the last few years. ‘I Want U’ doesn’t just sound like her, it sounds like something she’d want to play at her own gigs. It has that seething, sinister sort of energy that happens in UK ’90s rave music before a drop; the warped rattlesnake percussion, the wind-up toybox harmony and those floating vocals. The build is slow, and it’s probably the best part of the journey, that seismonic sawtooth bass beating down a path for the synth horns to hop on through. You also hear Sholler singing, properly and officially, for one of the first times in her career. What surprised me wasn’t that she could do it, but rather what kind of performance she pulls out. Electronic songs with huge drops and trap drums don’t usually both at all with getting a decent vocal edit; it’s just a means to an end. For proof of that you only need to hear the anything What So Not has put out in the last year. But Alison is going for it, and you can hear the drama in there. That slide up to her high note that pulls in right before the chorus is a real spine-tingler.
And because the chorus is what the kids will be going for, I have to say it’s also far from lazy. The sound palette is way more varied than your average RL Grime-esque monster beat, with heaps of South American percussion pinging out across the wasteland, deviations into xylophone-sounding lead lines and all sorts of other junk that I would never put in there because my attention to detail has never really been a strong suit. But perhaps the point that hasn’t been stressed here is that as much as ‘I Want U’ will inevitably become the floor-filler Wonderland always wanted of her own, it will also function perfectly well a great indie-pop song. I want to listen to it as much sitting in my apartment huddling to keep warm as I do on ten tons of illicit substances.
The little crossover champ that could finally did. Let’s dance.
Alison Wonderland – ‘I Want U’