Johanna Glaza won’t be pigeonholed. She isn’t interested in fulfilling anybody’s expectations. She expects nothing less than transcendent beauty from her craft. Her meticulous musical catalogue is a series of self-provocations, of irrational decisions, of challenges that she has set herself, of mountains climbed. Above all, she has never tolerated the ‘shortcuts’ of modern recording, her records are labours of craft, not correction. The arcs of her songwriting never sit comfortably in the grip of a DAW’s grid, the icy edge of her voice will never tolerate manipulation, so she seeks out recording techniques that can follow her ebb and flow, and capture the essence of her hypnotic live performances.
Over the course of her last three releases, the most recent of which was praised by The Quietus, she has recorded a panoply of found sounds and incidental noises to tape, crafting together performances that are at once gloriously organic and meticulously arranged. Her new album, “Exile”, is no exception. Her most tonally and emotionally diverse and challenging release to date, it’s an album that feels like it is constantly trying to writhe out of your grasp, to unmoor you and set you adrift on choppy seas.
“Exile” covers a lot of ground in its seven songs and thirty minutes. The dreamy humming and harmonies of King’s Alive fade away to the bare ballad Catch and Escape which is reminiscent of Fairport Convention’s more reflective moments. Isabella spectacularly resurrects a fan favourite from Johanna’s distant past. Dear Life dances between melancholy and whimsy recalling both Weyes Blood and Joanna Newsom. The title track Exile is perhaps the most condensed summary of Johanna’s gifts, charting a course between delicate and sparse verses, unexpected flourishes, and grand baroque balladry. Finally, the last third of the album is devoted to Albion, Johanna’s longest and boldest track to date, more medieval epic than contemporary pop song, it showcases Johanna’s mastery of her voice, her lyricism, and her ability to strike upon innumerable arresting melodies as she leads the listener deep into her imagined histories.
This is iconoclastic music for dark winters’ nights, a siren’s song luring you into exile amongst murky unreal landscapes.
‘Exile’ is available to listen/stream online now.