Weyes Blood

(Copyright © 2020 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of Use )
The Outside Room (2011), 7.5/10
The Innocents (2014), 5.5/10
Front Row Seat to Earth (2016), 6.5/10
Titanic Rising (2019), 6/10
And In the Darkness Hearts Aglow (2022), 7/10

Oregon's singer-songwriter Weyes Blood (real name Natalie Mering), formerly Weyes Bluhd when she recorded the ambient album Strange Chalices of Seeing (2007), crafted the six-song The Outside Room (Not Not Fun, 2011) in the freak-folk style of Devendra Banhart and Sufjan Stevens but with the solemn, ritualistic overtones of Nico. Nico's specter is particularly present in Storms That Breed, although the song is immersed in the neurotic cacophony that characterizes the whole album. At times Mering also evokes Enya, especially in the floating, disintegrating lullabye Dream Song and in the seven-minute dejected folk elegy Romneydale. The dissonance that underlies all six songs becomes nightmarish in In the Isle of Agnitio whose electronic noise is borderline musique concrete. It all comes together in the nine-minute Candyboy, a sort of ancient funereal chant with droning keyboards and noisy percussion, with an organ solo that radiates hallucinogenic sparks, like a distorted version of Terry Riley's Rainbow in Curved Air. The album closes with another martial gothic chant, His Song, pierced by industrial-grade drones.

Surprisingly, she reinvented herself as a much more conventional folksinger on The Innocents (Mexican Summer, 2014), a collection of shorter and more lively songs, between the simple Celtic folk-rock of Land of Broken Dreams and the catchy and bouncy Ashes, via the even simpler lullabye Summer, and closing with another Celtic-tinged dance, Bound to Earth. The more serious aspect of her music is still there, in the austere Enya-esque aria of Some Winters (despite a hysterical piano accompaniment) and in the convent-like hymn Requiem for Forgiveness (with echoes and abstract chamber accompaniment). Some songs are positively tedious (Hang On, Bad Magic) and could have been omitted to make a more pleasant four-song EP. She tries too hard to emphasize the lyrics, which are not her forte. All in all, compared with the magical atmosphere of the previous album, this follow-up feels like a betrayal. Gone are the turbulent dissonances and the disorienting drones. We are left with a mediocre singer-songwriter.

The four-song EP Cardamom Times (2015) contains the Joanna Newsom-esque Cardamom Times and the ambient folk of In the Beginning.

The evolution towards a more traditional and better arranged song format continued on Front Row Seat to Earth (2016), lavishly produced by Jonathan Rado. He turns the almost classical aria Diary into lounge music with drum machines, and adds a Phil Spector-ian bombast to the martial piano elegy Used to Be. A martial tempo also propels the gentle meditation Do You Need My Love?. He adds a Caribbean rhythm to the vibrant, Joni Mitchell-esque Away Above. Be Free evokes the soft ballads of Burt Bacharach and the dreamy singalongs of the teen idols of the Fifties. Elegant and slow melodies like Seven Words definitely have a vintage feeling, as if they were old hits of the Sixties. Other than the echoes of Enya's "oceanic" mode in Generation Why, this is a collection of straightforward folk-pop songs. A pleasant album, with a singer whose voice is more curated than the average, but this is a different musician from the Weyes Blood of 2011, one who belongs to the elaborate pop music of the Elton Johns and the Carole Kings of the world.

She moved decisively into Burt Bacharach's territory with the smooth ballads of Titanic Rising (Sub Pop, 2019), such as A Lot's Gonna Change and Wild Time. Andromeda and Something to Believe are generic country-esque elegies. Too many litanies follow each other with minimal variation. Luckily, there are exceptions. The peak of fun is Everyday, a ditty that harkens back to the bubblegum-pop of Tommy Roe. The peak of pathos and of vocal acrobatics is the soaring and majestic hymn Movies (ruined by a grotesque second half that reprises the melody in a magniloquent mode), followed by the gentler and catchier Mirror Forever (that the excessive arrangements transform into a sort of funeral march). As a pop diva a` la Dionne Warwick, Mering is worth a lot less than she was as a psychedelic elf.

And In the Darkness Hearts Aglow (2022)   is her Joni Mitchell album, the meditative counterpart to the baroque calligraphy of Titanic Rising her Blue, a collection of long-winded songs that not so much evolve but grow and mature as they go, often via subtle but steady crescendoes of strings and/or voices and/or keyboards. However, the warmer melodies and the immaculate production differentiate her from the intellectual tone of a Joni Mitchell. The lovesick Hearts Aglow brings in the harpsichord and a choir to cap the pathos of a song that started out as just voice and guitar. It's Not Just Me It's Everybody is a country lament masquerading as whispered orchestral pop, emerging from a Laura Nyro-esque sepia-toned haze. By the end, the stately and baroque Grapevine sounds like a collaboration between King Crimson and Neil Young. The philosophical parable of God Turn Me Into a Flower, sculputed by Oneohtrix Point Never, is an ethereal Enya-esque ode, suspended in another dimension. The swinging Phil Spector-esque ditty Children of the Empire evokes Linda Ronstadt fronting the Fleetwood Mac. On the downside, Twin Flame is an awful imitation of 1980s synth-pop propelled by a vintage beat-box, and The Worst Is Done is a trivial country-pop litany with a disco beat.

(Copyright © 2020 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
(Translation by/ Tradotto da Edoardo Ferrara

La cantautrice Weyes Blood, pseudonimo di Natalie Mering, originaria dell’Oregon e precedentemente conosciuta come Weyes Bluhd quando registrò Strange Chalices of Seeing (2007), realizzò l’album The Outside Room (Not Not Fun, 2011), composto da sei canzoni freak folk nello stile di Devendra Banhart e Sufjan Stevens ma con i toni solenni e ritualistici di Nico. Lo spettro di Nico è particolarmente presente in Storms That Breed, nonostante la canzone sia immersa nella cacofonia nevrotica che caratterizza l’intero album. Talvolta la Mering rievoca anche Enya, specialmente nella sospesa, disintegrante ninna nanna Dream Song e nell’avvilente elegia folk Romneydale da sette minuti. La dissonanza che è alla base dei sei brani diventa angosciosa ne In the Isle of Agnitio, il cui noise elettronico si avvicina alla musique concrète. Tutto si fonde in Candyboy, dalla durata di nove minuti, una sorta di antico canto funebre con tastiere da drone music e percussioni noise, con un assolo di organo che irradia scintille allucinogene, come una versione distorta di Rainbow in Curved Air di Terry Riley. L’album si chiude con un altro canto gotico marziale, His Song, penetrato da droni in stile industrial.

Sorprendentemente, si reinventò come una cantautrice folk molto più convenzionale in The Innocents (Mexican Summer, 2014), una collezione di brani più corti e vivaci, muovendosi tra il semplice folk rock celtico di Land of Broken Dreams e la vivace ed orecchiabile Ashes, passando per l’ancor più semplice ninna nanna Summer, e chiudendo con un’altra danza in stile celtico, Bound to Earth. L’aspetto più serio della sua musica permane nell’austera aria Some Winters à la Enya (nonostante un isterico accompagnamento al piano) e nell’inno da convento Requiem for Forgiveness (con echi ed astratti accompagnamenti da camera). Alcuni brani sono positivamente tediosi (Hang On, Bad Magic) e avrebbero potuto essere omessi per realizzare un più gradevole EP da quattro canzoni. La Mering prova troppo a dare enfasi ai testi, che non sono il suo forte. Nel complesso, paragonato alla magica atmosfera dell’album precedente, questo seguito sembra un tradimento. Andate sono le turbolente dissonanze e i droni spiazzanti. Tutto ciò che ci rimane è una cantautrice mediocre.

L’EP da quattro canzoni Cardamom Times (2015) contiene Cardamom Times, nello stile di Joanna Newsom, e l’ambient folk di In the Beginning.

La sua evoluzione verso una più tradizionale e meglio arrangiata struttura delle canzoni continuò in Front Row Seat to Earth (2016), in gran parte prodotto da Jonathan Radio. Questi trasforma l’aria classicheggiante Diary in musica da lounge con batterie elettroniche, ed aggiunge un ritmo magniloquente à la Phil Spector alla marziale elegia al piano Used to Be. Un tempo marziale sospinge anche la delicata meditazione Do You Need My Love?. Egli aggiunge un ritmo caraibico alla vibrante e Joni Mitchell-esca Away Above. Be Free evoca le dolci ballate di Burt Bacharach e le sognanti canzoni dei teen idol degli anni Cinquanta. Melodie dolci ed eleganti come Seven Words trasmettono chiaramente una sensazione vintage, come se fossero vecchie hit degli anni Sessanta. A parte gli echi della manieraoceanicadi Enya in Generation Why, questa è una collezione di semplici canzoni folk pop. Un album piacevole, con una voce maggiormente curata rispetto alla media, ma si tratta di una musicista diversa dalla Weyes Blood del 2011, una che appartiene alla musica pop elaborata degli Elton John e delle Carole King del mondo.

Si spostò decisamente nel territorio di Burt Bacharach con le calme ballate di Titanic Rising (Sub Pop, 2019), come A Lot’s Gonna Change e Wild Time. Andromeda e Something to Believe sono convenzionali elegie in stile country. Troppe litanie si susseguono senza la minima variazione. Per fortuna, vi sono delle eccezioni. L’apice del divertimento è Everyday, una canzonetta che ricorda il bubblegum pop di Tommy Roe. L’apice del pathos e delle acrobazie vocali è l’elevato e maestoso inno Movies (rovinato da una grottesca seconda metà che riprende la melodia in una maniera magniloquente), seguito dalla più delicata ed orecchiabile Mirror Forever (trasformata in un canto funebre dai suoi esorbitanti arrangiamenti). Nelle vesti di una diva pop à la Dionne Warwick, la Mering vale molto meno di quando era un elfo psichedelico.