On Toygirl, Slic Mixes Mindlessness and Meta-Guile

Listening to Toygirl, the debut EP by Slic, I was struck by the surreality of dance music in January 2021. Having not gone anywhere but the grocery store for almost a year, I felt like a post-apocalyptic hermit stopping to filter water from a stream and hearing a fellow traveler telling folktales of life in the Before times. “All the girls move sexy when I play that party music,” says Brooklyn producer and multi-instrumentalist Cami Dominguez, and I nod, fondly but solemnly, warmth in my heart renewed, calloused hands struggling with the lid of my canteen.

In all seriousness, though, Dominguez’ keen sense of the real and unreal serves them well throughout Toygirl’s four tracks. It gels with the stylistic mashup at the project’s core: Dominguez grew up in Florida, dancing to techno infused with the diasporic sounds of Latin America, and here they create their own fusion of Venezuelan gaita rhythms and lo-fi synth pop. With a heavy hand on the filter knob, Dominguez draws gritty, tactile beats into a cloud of fog-machine haze.

The title track leads off the EP, and it lays everything out in the playful clash of swooning synths and the metallic squeal of percussion, full of mock-hand-drumming. Like an alternate universe spin on “Barbie Girl,” Dominguez gives an adoring ode to a girl who lives a charmed life–the raindrops themselves yield before her otherworldly beauty–underpinned by the alien trappings of wealth and privilege. “Perfect Day” follows with another dizzy fantasy, drums thumping like a heartbeat in a fever-addled skull as Dominguez recounts a desperate love affair while also taking stock of dollars spent and missed days of work.

“Party Music” pulls off a similar trick. Its first verses revel in the brainlessness of moving to a good beat (on the dance floor or with a partner in a parked car) but later on twists the knife by revealing Dominguez’ narrator as the producer of that beat–one who crafted it hoping for just such a reaction. It also features a disarmingly clean electric guitar line, which may be the EP’s most sober instrumental touch.

The video for “Party Music” follows Dominguez through a day at a water park, alternating between regular and color-reversed footage, and it’s a neat visualization of those moments throughout the EP where they wind Toygirl up just to turn her on her head. It’s a smart, singular debut that shows Dominguez can make music that moves you to another world–that eternal, ethereal, black-lit club, where the DJ is always pumping out bangers–and just as easily flex the meta-guile to bring you back to Earth and remind you who controls the illusion.

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