Maylee Todd, ‘Maloo’ — 3.5/5 stars

‘Toban turntable

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Multidisciplinary artist Maylee Todd has had a wild, varied career. Beginning her career as a comedian, she has since branched out into performance art, animation and music. All these elements come together on her ambitious new project Maloo.

The record is pitched as a sort of concept album, with a storyline as baffling as the uncanny digital avatar that appears on its cover — a smooth, grey humanoid creature with massive aquatic ears.

According to the press materials, “Maloo tells the story of a conscious AI observer summoned into being by the Children of Ew, creators of the metaverse. In this Age of Energy, empathy, mental health and creativity are the core elements for survival. [Maloo] travels to the Infinite Program, a planet whose sustainability is dependent on the well-being of its inhabitants.”

Given her comedic background and her work with notorious absurdist Eric Andre, it can be assumed the silliness is intentional, but the album also has serious intentions of interrogating our encroaching sci-fi metaverse reality. She examines the impact of the virtual space on our lives and explores identity, sexuality and mental health.

Musically, Maloo notably draws from Japanese ambient and environmental music, applying the glassy, melancholy and retro-futurist sounds of early digital synthesizers to more modern pop structures with a healthy dose of neo-soul and jazz influence as well. It is reminiscent of Mac DeMarco or labelmate Jerry Paper’s woozy songwriting.

The third track “Grab Your Guts” looks at the loneliness of virtual living, as well as the dichotomy of living more and more in a virtual space while still having a physical body to take care of, with a repeated mantra of “I grab my guts and my hardwire, still manning up.” Other songs, like the slow jam “No Other,” seem to abandon the sci-fi plotline, muddying Todd’s overall concept. Considering how all-in the rest of the album is, “No Other” is a glaring oversight.

The metaverse largely fills me with dread and confusion, but Todd seems to have an optimistic view of our virtual future. Even as the album contains melancholy and skepticism, she chooses to end the album with “Absolute Time and Space,” a comforting song about getting through confusing, troubling times by holding on to the ones you love. And maybe in the metaverse, all we need is love.