Nailah Hunter : Lovegaze

Nailah Hunter Lovegaze review

Dreamlike piano—treated with reverb, humming and resonating like a new age soundscape—opens the record. It’s like hovering in a dream: vocals dance and embroider, somewhere between Björk and the new arthouse wings of R&B like Shamir or Moses Sumney, fog and crystal, as if Yes’ Jon Anderson had been reborn in the modern day, those brilliant prog-pop records with Vangelis re-emerging in the cultural context of the internet age. This fusion space, lingering somewhere between the spaciousness of early trip-hop, the glistening beauty of the more progressive wing of Kate Bush’s sound and new age soundscapes, is a maintained image through this record. At times, Nailah Hunter‘s Lovegaze calls to mind if the brilliant and wildly undersung Massive Attack track “Pray for Rain” were extended to a full-album set, its aesthetic seized up and explored like the light-gleam ice caves of a well-burrowed iceberg adrift in the arctic ocean.

At some point you might wonder: When, if ever, does the record break from its placid and comforting cocoon of sound? Sadly, to some, this never comes; the modus operandi of this record is far more a blissed-out, meditative and chill-out vibe. The ear candy signals enough what this record aims for (is that sound effect vinyl crackle or a drag on a joint?) and, taken on its own terms, it succeeds in those environments. I have spent the past week that this review should have been due dealing with the burgeoning and the eruptive presence of an infection in my hand, which has let me play this record in moments of quiet peace as the painkillers kick in, the heat and throb of the pain of an inflating and distending hand, applying gels and curled up shaking on the couch waiting for medication to kick in. It is here that the emotional timbre of the record revealed itself. Much like all great new age-inflected records, it is not driven by outward emotionality, the strong appeals to response that R&B or pop are largely driven by. The melodic intent and richness of the harmonic beds, not to mention the sensuous humanity of Hunter’s impeccable vocal, instead curl about you like smoke, patient and slow, waiting for a crack in your own latent emotionality to seep into you, inflate it as my hand inflated, inflaming the heart.

I am not opposed to direct and openly emotionalist music. (I do, after all, weep far more readily for a well-played record than in conversation with my spouse, thanks to the savages of being raised a boy whether I felt I always was one or not.) But there’s something gratifying about this kind of slow-motion, responsive album, one that does not so much contain its own direct emotionality save perhaps for the keenness of yearning (for something distant, for something lost, for something you failed to attain) as much as it reflects your own back at you. Art has this profound use as an auto-therapeutic tool, the way we respond to a piece of art saying so much about ourselves and our latent psyches, like a more aesthetically rich Rorschach test, and the way Lovegaze taps as much into sensation of pain in the wake of cruelty and failure as it does the richness of yearning to be loved as you are maybe says more about me than the record itself. But you cannot attain that kind of reflective power just by the sheer force of the listener. It is in response to something. Here, it is that patient mirror. Think of Kate Bush’s voice in “Hello Earth” or “Snowed In On Wheeler Street,” a beautiful openness, like you can practically see her wrapped in billowing winter clothes at cliff’s edge, serenading the clouds in a desperate attempt to be heard. This record lives in that hollow. It’s a brilliant thing.

Nailah Hunter shows a side of contemporary harp-driven music (oh yeah, I forgot to mention she’s a harpist, didn’t I?), counterpointing that other major contemporary harpist in Mary Lattimore by making music that reads far more in the tradition of a Bat for Lashes than a Brian Eno, albeit both contain elements of the other obviously. That this is a debut, given its riches, feels perplexing and joyful. What a wonderful career ahead she almost certainly will have, especially with sonic ideas already so fully realized and deeply imagistic as this already.

Label: Fat Possum

Year: 2024

Similar Albums:

View Comments (0)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Scroll To Top