Marissa Nadler — „The Path of the Clouds“ (Oct. 29, 2021)
★ςςς★ Úchvatný zvukový odklon. Inspirovaný dlouholetým dokumentárním seriálem Unsolved Mysteries, plodná písničkářka zvěčňuje lidi, jejichž příběhy je třeba vyprávět.
ςςς Písně Marissy Nadlerové zní jako kino; můžete je téměř vidět a cítit. Vtáhnou vás do sebe, jako byste seděli ve starém kině nebo se dívali na televizi ve dvě hodiny ráno. Album je interaktivní a Marissa si nakonec udělá ve vaší hlavě místo. Líbilo se mi na chvíli okupovat ten prostor. Marissa má pravdu — tato deska je jako pára a hvězdný prach. Marissa Nadler = Chelsea Wolfe + Lingua Ignota
★ςςς★ To je pro Marissu v mnoha ohledech odklon, s propracovanější produkcí, neobvyklým vyprávěním a pevným výhledem do budoucnosti jako umělkyně (více klavíru, více síly vokálně). To vše vytváří dojemný pohled na lidi, kteří se změnili, transformovali, zmizeli a vybledli, ale jsou zvěčněni na krásné desce.
ςςς Dlouholetí posluchači už budou mít jasno, co můžou od Marissy očekávat, ale pořád zůstává zajímavé sledovat, jak maluje linky v rámci svých vlastních parametrů; je tu prostor pro stylové variace, které na této desce pokrývají škálu od bluesové struny ‚Couldn’t Have Done the Killing‘ po skromnou a elegickou ‚Storm‘. Vysoce atmosférické a koncepčně inteligentní The Path of the Clouds je důstojným přírůstkem do působivě konzistentního katalogu Marissy Nadler.
Born: April 5, 1981 in Washington D.C.
Location: Boston, Massachusetts
Album release: Oct. 29, 2021
Record Label: Sacred Bones/Bella Union
01. Bessie, Did You Make It? 4:30
02. The Path of the Clouds 4:51
03. Couldn’t Have Done the Killing 4:49
04. If I Could Breathe Underwater 4:30
05. Elegy 4:45
06. Well Sometimes You Just Can’t Stay 3:52
07. From Vapor to Stardust 3:54
08. Storm 3:52
09. Turned Into Air 3:20
10. And I Dream of Running 3:20
11. Lemon Queen 4:37
• Marissa Nadler 1, 3, 6,
• Simon Raymonde 2, 7, 8
• Mary Lattimore 4
• Amber Webber 5
• Emma Ruth Rundle 9, 10
By Ella Kemp •ς• 29th October 2021 •ς• Score: ★★★★
ςςς As a child, Marissa Nadler was obsessed with Unsolved Mysteries. From 1987, the documentary series originally ran for almost 20 years and 600 episodes, focusing on strange cases of sudden disappearances. Those stories, of forgotten people and lives cut short, found their way back into Nadler’s life during the last 18 months — stuck at home during the pandemic, she dove headfirst into these other worlds that offered an escape from her own.
ςςς The result is the prolific singer~songwriter’s ninth album ‘The Path of the Clouds’, a record at once expansive and surprising lyrically and melodically. She nods to 1928 wilderness explorers Bessie and Glen Hyde on transportive opener ‘Bessie Did You Make It’, and pays homage to 1971 plane hijacker D.B. Cooper on the title track — yet there’s no twitchy interrogation of what he did or did not do; she uses the space instead to offer a salient meditation on what it means to take control of your own destiny.
ςςς Yet fiction doesn’t swallow us whole, with Nadler’s forthright vision for her own evolution as an artist still ambitious — all 11 tracks here are self~produced, and she’s enlisted collaborators including cosmic harp player Mary Lattimore, Mercury Rev member Jesse Chandler and multi~instrumentalist Milky Burgess (a recent contributor on the atmospheric score for Panos Cosmatos’ psychedelic horror Mandy).
There’s a determination with her new collaborators to move beyond the “ethereal” and “haunting” epithets that have followed Nadler for the last two decades, particularly felt here in the seductive bassline of ‘If I Could Breath Underwater’ and in defiant, menacing chords (yet it wouldn’t be Nadler at her best without delicate fingerpicking elsewhere too) on ‘Couldn’t Have Done The Killing’.
ςςς ‘Elegy’ stands out for its quiet devastation, with Lattimore’s work elevating the ghostly into something altogether spellbinding, while the romance of ‘Lemon Queen’ swells with a distinct lack of reverb on Nadler’s voice and the warm twang of shimmering strings closing the album on a cinematic, mournful note. “Taller and taller / Over you,” she sings, leaving the question hanging in the air as to whether or not the person she’s speaking to is still in a place to hear this.
ςςς This is a departure for Nadler in a number of ways, with more sophisticated production, unusual storytelling, and a firm look ahead to her future as an artist (more piano, more power vocally). It all makes for a moving look at people who changed, transformed, disappeared and faded, but are immortalised on a beautiful record.
⊇ Marissa Nadler started out making a dark dream folk, her ghostly voice swathed in reverb against skeletal backings. Her ninth album fleshes out her sound on a set of murder ballads with a twist to create her crowning achievement.
⊇ Some of us spent lockdown taking up new activities — knitting, drawing, baking, bingeing box sets. Perhaps you were more productive, starting that screenplay or novel that you’d been talking about for years. Marissa Nadler did a bit of both. She learned to play the piano and binged re~runs of the dark documentary series Unsolved Mysteries. The result of her lockdown hobbies is what must surely the best album of her career. As she sat at home watching stories of shocking murders, mysterious disappearances and paranormal encounters the Boston~based musician and visual artist began to notice parallels between her own life and many of those she had been viewing on Netflix. Not that she had been out in the woods around nearby Salem hunting for the ghosts of witches; but that’s the beauty of being an artist and a songwriter — you can place yourself (and your listeners) in an imaginary world of your choosing.
⊇ Consequently, what started as a writing exercise became the bedrock of Nadler’s new songwriting process as she began to inhabit the narratives that had so fascinated her on screen, blurring the line between reality and fantasy, moving freely between past and present, fiction and truth. And, like all her previous work, from her earliest Americana~tinged dream~folk recordings with skeletal acoustic backings, to her last album For My Crimes, which put flesh on the bones of those songs, there is a dark undercurrent that contrasts with that light voice, a ghostly presence that imbues even the prettiest songs with an omimous sense of discomfort and danger
⊇ The Path Of The Clouds, self~produced and performed by Nadler with a collection of hand~picked musicians, is a set of deeply personal songs about love, metamorphosis, mysticism and murder. Her ninth solo album, it’s also her most melodically sophisticated and stylistically adventurous, expanding her once ethereally minimalist palette into a series of wintry widescreen soundscapes — a fitting setting for songs that search for solace, salvation and redemption even amid the depths of depravity.
⊇ Nadler’s songs always displayed that dark gothic undercurrent, even in her choice of collaborators (from death metal bands to friends like Sharon Van Etten and Angel Olsen) and covers, including a sparse interpretation of Black Sabbath’s Solitude and her work with bands like Xashur, Xiu Xiu, Ghost and Stephen Brodsky of Cave~In and Converge: their version of In The Air Tonight is essential listening; and last year’s spellbinding John Cale collab, Poison / If We Make It Through The Summer.
⊇ In that context, a new album by Marissa Nadler is never going to be packed with upbeat bangers. For My Crimes boasted a title song written and sung from the point of view of a prisoner on Death Row, begging for forgiveness and absoliution. Little surprise, then, to find that her latest opens with a gothic murder ballad, albeit one with a twist. Bessie, Did You Make It? inverts the oeuvre, crafting a compelling narrative of female empowerment and survival based on a true crime, as does the brooding Couldn’t Have Done The Killing: “Lay your weapons down, leave your weapons at the door / Cause you don’t need them, you don’t need them any more.”
⊇ The title track The Path Of The Clouds has its roots in another real~life crime, telling the story of infamous hijacker D.B. Cooper, who disappeared after parachuting from a passenger plane — the only unsolved act of air piracy in aviation history. But the song isn’t just about jumping out of a plane, faking your death and making a grand exit: it’s a meditation on perseverance and transformation, a salute to mastering one’s fate. It also rocks harder than anything Nadler has ever done before (which, admittedly, isn’t that hard).
⊇ Not that it’s all doom and gloom. Well, Sometimes You Just Can’t Stay introduces humour into the ingenious plans of the only escapees from Alcatraz never to be recaptured or found dead, and confronts the lingering enigma that surrounds their history. There’s a lyrical twist in the chorus that turns a tale about a prison break into a humorous, shoegazing country song. Meanwhile, a majestic grandeur sweeps through Elegy, shooting the listener into the stratosphere as synths swirl and entwine with Nadler’s voice, while the ghostly apparition of Black Mountain’s Amber Webber can be heard as a vocal foil in the distance.
⊇ While she’s always been a brilliant if understated guitarist, Nadler challenged herself to expand her palette here, experimenting with synthetic textures — and working with a wide range of collaborators — that make the music here feel untethered from time and space. In another change, she composed most of the new songs on the piano rather than her usual acoustic guitar, having taken piano lessons during lockdown from Jesse Chandler (a member of Midlake and Mercury Rev), who contributes plaintive piano and winding woodwinds on the album.
⊇ Nadler tracked the skeletons of the songs at home before sending them to her hand~picked coterie of collaborators, including Mary Lattimore, whose hallucinatory harp playing adds shimmering layers to If I Could Breathe Underwater, a cinematic flight of fancy with a pulsing rhythm and serpentine bass hooks. Others to contribute include Simon Raymonde, once bass guitarist in The Cocteau Twins and now her label boss at Bella Union, and multi~instrumentalist Milky Burgess, plus singer~songwriter Emma Ruth Rundle who contributes a slinky guitar solo on Turned Into Air.
⊇ The album was mixed in Rhode Island by Seth Manchester, known for his work with Lingua Ignota, Battles and Lightning Bolt, where another dimension was added to the songs’ atmospheric beauty with screeching feedback and distorted guitars, like the ones that add a chilling layer of discomfort to Couldn’t Have Done The Killing. Vocally, there is a new dimension too: stripped of the ethereal reverb that’s been a signature of her ghostly delivery, Nadler’s celestial mezzo~soprano exhibits a newfound immediacy and confidence.
⊇ Lyrically, her artist’s eye captures the detail in the stories she weaves in much the same way as she meticulously applies paint to a canvas. There are musicians for whom the term “artist” sounds trite — let’s face it, Westlife are not in the same game as Radiohead and Olly Murs is no Nick Cave — but for Marissa Nadler it’s exactly the right word. In fact it’s the only word. She’s an artist at the peak of her powers.
The Path of the Clouds Review by Marcy Donelson. Score: ★★★★½.
By Russ Holsten:
Words by Joe Goggins. Score: 7
Nina Corcoran | April 4, 2019 | 7:29pm ET |