Every artist on the Constellation label seems to share two things. The first is beautiful album art, always on digipak, frequently with accompanying inserts. And the second is mind-numbingly long songs. I’ve never understood why it’s absolutely necessary to record anything over 8 or 9 minutes, let alone 15 or 20, and yet, it happens pretty frequently, particularly on the Canadian post-rock imprint. While I don’t dislike any of their bands — they all seem to be doing something unique and intriguing — I have a hard time really sinking my teeth into any of them. While it’s true, I did love that last Fly Pan Am album (which had two 11 minute songs), all in all, it was pretty short and extremely noisy. It’s the slow-building, overly dramatic ones I have trouble with.
Elizabeth Anka Vajagic, a solo performer on the Constellation label, keeps in the tradition of beautiful album art and songs stretched out like salt water taffy. Her Nostalgia/Pain EP contains only three tracks, yet is over 30 minutes in length. To put in perspective, the new Holopaw album, for example, has eight more songs and is probably only a minute longer. And Vajagic, like many of her labelmates, certainly falls under the slow-building, overly dramatic category. Maybe it’s because she sings, or maybe it’s because she’s absolutely fucking terrifying, but in her case, it’s a little different.
Vajagic wails like a possessed soul, doomed to hellfire and eternal agony. That is, after a minute or two of silence, followed by a few minutes of ambient, orchestral melodrama. Then the listener gets treated to a scary, gothic operetta that probably stands as one of the most harrowing experiences caught on tape. There are shades of PJ Harvey and Shannon Wright there, only without the hooks.
Track two, “Pain,” which is only 12 minutes long, makes for a more pleasant listen, albeit one that’s still as dark and as unnerving. The moaning isn’t quite as loud here, though, which should count for something. I do find it ironic, though, that of the two titular songs, “Pain” is the more accessible. Track three, “Beneath Quiet Mornings,” is a short one at four minutes long, a mere fraction of the hell-bent journey that the others deliver. Still, it’s a fine, ambient goth-folk tune, even if it is relatively subdued. And in a way, Vajagic succeeds in not pummeling us with her primal screams. A fine, reverb-heavy pop tune will do just fine thank you.
I don’t see myself putting this album on much, quite frankly because it makes me want to curl up in a corner and cut myself off from the outside world. Not that I don’t want to do that already sometimes anyway. But I fear this record may entice me never to get out.
Nina Nastasia – Dogs
Rasputina – Frustration Plantation
Shannon Wright – Maps of Tacit
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.