Saturday, August 2, 2014
The End of Things - Bachelorette
Drag City DC 445
This is the American issue of Bachelorette's debut album originally released by Arch Hill Recordings in New Zealand in 2005. Given that it only has 7 tracks it is more of a mini-album or EP than a full-length album I suppose, but the music is weighty enough that it makes for a challenging and fulfilling listening experience akin to listening to an album. I first encountered Bachelorette when she opened for the Magnetic Fields at the Orpheum a couple of years ago. I was expecting an actual group but instead a small woman walked out carrying a guitar and went up to a table full of electronic gadgets, laptops and sequencers and the like. She proceeded to create a series of loops with her voice and guitar layering them over and over creating a rich mesmerizing sound. I was very impressed and after seeing the show I started buying her records. Bachelorette is the nom de disque of a New Zealander, Annabel Alpers. She produced and composed the album and played all the instruments aside from a drummer on one track and a second guitarist on another. The album opens with "My Electric Husband." The song is an ode to a husband who fulfills the role of all her appliances - "he's my blender, he's my juicer, my happiness producer." The electronic subject of the song is echoed by the extremely processed sound of the music. The song is driven by layer upon layer of simple electronic riffs and multi-tracked vocals. It is like a cross between Eno and Devo. "Down in the Street" is more pop oriented in its structure although the sound is still heavily synthesized with lots of multi-tracking again. The song is minimalist in nature with the simplicity of its riffs but the richness of sound makes it sound ornate and lovely. "Love is a Drug" features a human drummer but the song is otherwise heavily processed including the multi-tracked vocal. It is a gorgeous dream pop extravaganza with a majestic synth solo in the instrumental break. This is my favorite cut on the album. In contrast "Pebbles and Dirt" is sparer. It is guitar-driven and uses reverb to expand the sound as well as backward recordings. The vocal is extremely complex with many layers, it reminds me of Bjork. The song sounds like a trippy folk song and is another one of my favorite cuts. Side two opens with "Song For a Boy" which is surprisingly countryish. It is also guitar-driven (she uses a second guitarist to play lead guitar on this cut) and aside from the ubiquitous reverb it features little processing. It is a charming love song reminiscent of Syd Barrett. "On the Four" is a slow synth driven tune that uses extensive multi-tracking to create a whirlwind of sound to support Alpers' seductive description of a hypnotic evening at a dance club. It is another impressive track that illustrates her remarkable ability to create a wall of sound all on her own. The album concludes with "The End of Things" which is a simple folky song about the transcience of human existence in contrast to the more enduring character of the world we live in. The song slowly builds in strength as Alpers adds synths to the song creating a satisfying gravity that reinforces the philosophical lyrics and gives the record a strong finish. I really enjoy this record but it isn't for everybody. I imagine many synth-pop fans will think it is too slow and alt-rock fans may find it cold and repetitious. I'm drawn to ethereal pop and shoegaze type music so this record pushes a lot of my buttons. Recommended to Bjork fans who like Lorde.