Seattle’s experimental pop stylist returns with a sumptuous follow-up to 2015’s ‘All Around Us’, in which her vocal processing and subliminal melodies chart her emotional highs and lows with a glacial shiver.
On her new album, ‘Call It Love’, Seattle’s Briana Marela invokes Julianna Barwick’s wordless vapor, Sigur Ros’s lush ear-candy and Purity Ring’s ambient haze whilst nudging her signature ethereal sound towards synth-pop and dissecting love’s timeline from first sight to despondency.
For those listeners who were seduced in 2015 by the artist’s splendid second record, ‘All Around Us’, there’s plenty of soothing, enveloping vistas. This time, though, there’s a concerted effort to add new wrinkles and pop structure, to fuse and reconcile her two songwriting modes and find an equilibrium, a platonic ideal.
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Her airy, tumbling vocals and luminous compositions are now anchored by a fluid swirl of beats and widely varied textures, rendering them more inviting to newcomers without alienating the die-hards. The meshing of chamber music drones, swooning vocals and skittering electronica make for an intricate, ambient-alt-dream-pop fusion that feels organic and refreshing as well as punchy and restless; in short, nuanced, brooding music to gorge upon.
One of the LP’s stellar moments of progression arrives with the pristine ‘Feel What I Feel’, a track that laces her longing with confetti-like synths faintly redolent of Animal Collective’s ‘My Girls’ and stuttering electronic drum patterns. Similarly, lead single ‘Quit’ pairs her cavernous vocal delivery with an industrial pulse and frayed ambience as the singer ruminates on love’s souring and the remnants of a relationship.
The record opens with its most Barwick-like missive, a gloriously meditative cluster of harmonies that sounds both remote and unguarded whilst administering an irrepressible gut punch. Her reverb-pocked voice shines through the shimmering fog on the equally radiant ‘He Knows’ and the title track, an insidiously catchy lip-trembler that would surely grace the charts if there was any justice in the world.
‘Last Time’ is disarming and pretty, a narcotically alluring space ballad that unfurls over a slowly looping vocal illuminating sadness as if between waking and a dream state. ‘Farthest Shore’ is a stunning soundscape that imagines Beach House exploring the ragged margins of Krautrock and disco, while ‘Rise’ swims in gorgeous echoey washes that vanish into the ether.
Despite being draped in the effects-laden gauze of its state-of-the-art production, much of ‘Call It Love’ sounds intimate and disconcertingly interior, intensely private even. One of the most striking, expressive releases in the dream-pop milieu for some time, this is an album that summons an arresting atmosphere between dread and romantic yearning: these are songs of soothing dissonance that sway in the shadows.
The full track-listing for ‘Call It Love’ is as follows…