A more pop-orientated sound has been embraced here which should please current fans and appeal to new listeners
Marissa Nadler’s acoustics may be just as slow-burning and sonorous here as on many of her previous efforts, but after releasing her ethereal brand of shadowy folk for well over a decade now she’s proved she doesn’t need to reinvent herself to stay fresh musically. This album branches out instrumentally though, with more layered productions alongside her usual stripped back hypnagogic balladry, and at even its barest moments is deceptively rich as ghostly reverb-drenched vocal harmonies form a mesmeric tapestry of sound.
A resounding piano forms the only backdrop in album opener ‘Divers of the Dust’, and a muted guitar strum is the sole accompaniment in ‘Shadow Show Diane’, while the gentle acoustic guitar picking of ‘Dissolve’ is the most obvious throwback to her earlier work. Modest embellishments of lap steel slide guitar and snare brushes run through the title track, and the steady organ and tambourine driven ‘All the Colors of the Dark’ is almost as austere until a swelling orchestral chorus glides into the mix.
On the other hand, much of the heavier elements can probably be attributed to producer Randall Dunn, known for working with the likes of drone metal stalwarts Sunn O))). The tremolo-laden electric guitar twangs, eerie synthesizers, slow building orchestrations, and downbeat drumming of ‘Katie I Know’ form a far more expansive soundscape. Similarly, the sweeping layers of phased guitar, along with Nadler’s celestial vocal harmonies, create an epic atmosphere in ‘Hungry is the Ghost’ tapering into an almost military snare roll.
Despite this musical expansion, though, the lyrics hold an increasingly personal and raw catharsis, expressing regret and apprehension in equal measure while having an immediate emotional impact. In ‘Katie I Know’ a deep seated nostalgia is dredged up by a relationship coming to a painful end, while ‘Janie in Love’ is a tumultuous tale of love as a “natural disaster” (“You touch and the earth will crumble, you speak and hurricanes attack”).
At moments the reverb laden and darkly harmonious compositions recall Lana Dey Rey’s ‘Ultraviolence’ album from 2014, even complete with the moody black and white album sleeve. Although, perhaps there is less New Yawk City bravado and 007-theme ambience here, and more emotional depth and instrumental variety. ‘Nothing Feels the Same’ flies particularly close, with Nadler’s tremulous drawl and dreamy falsetto harmony particularly aping Del Rey’s style, while tremolo soaked guitar strums and lap steel slides glide over a churchly organ and lethargic percussions.
The “gothic” label which Nadler is often lumbered with is largely absent. Although, the metallic, almost medieval twelve-string guitar pick of ‘Skyscraper’ veers closely toward the latest output from the otherworldly harp-wielding songstress Joanna Newsom, last years futuristic folk concept album ‘Divers’. Overall though, a more pop-orientated sound has been embraced here which should please current fans and appeal to new listeners.
This Marissa Nadler article was written by Tadgh Shiels, a GIGsoup contributor