First thing to note: I won’t pretend to be able to analyze the hype phenomenon here (though hopefully I can offer some insight into why you might enjoy this album; at any rate, definitely give the two reviews a read). Rather, I want to delve into some specific themes that particularly endear Clairvoyant to me — its portrayals of love, spirituality, and vengeance.
The most central component of Clairvoyant is love — specifically, love without boundaries, universalized love, the sort of love that brings solidarity and acknowledgement of some shared humanity. Everyone involved in the transmission and reception of this message (i.e. the band and the listeners) is, I think, aware of the very idealized nature of such love; and to be sure, it’s never presented as anything easily attained (or even attainable at all in full). But if anything, Clairvoyant is a dogged pursuit of that ideal, a blunt confronting of the bitterness, loss and violence that inevitably precludes it. The religious allusions (often but not exclusively to Christianity), though somewhat ambiguous in attitude, lend more context to where the ethos of Clairvoyant comes from: within the album, Christianity is variously a cleansing force, a mechanism of rebirth, but also prone to corruption. “Contaminature” sings of “birdcages lined with Bible verses” — the implication could be that the desecration of the religion is a pitiable thing, but perhaps it’s a more general comment on hypocrisy in the political climate in which State Faults (who happen to be American) compose.
At any rate, the spiritual dimension of Clairvoyant is evident. The album doesn’t position itself too closely to the personal, which is a quality to be separated from its immediacy and frankness. Indeed, the very first song, “Dreamcatcher, Pt. II” begins with a sort of dissociation from the self — “I let myself go/I’m floating away/Passing the first death/And on to the next”. The album’s dreamy qualities, sonically manifesting through the more blackgaze-y sections, are further elaborated on by the lyrics as a quasi-spiritual journey; “Dreamcatcher, Pt. II” is a representation of the realm from which the untethered human soul, in its purest, loving form, eventually lands back into a physical body. The abrupt fierceness of “Planetary” effectively represents that sensation of being tugged back into the world, the pain immediately apparent. Nevertheless, Clairvoyant always retains some of that celestial wonder — there’s the gorgeous ambience on “Olive Tree”, the free float of “Sleeplessness” as the instruments suspend and a mesmerizing chant takes centre stage.
Vengeance seems rather out of place with the other two aspects I’ve covered, but it is the element that lends the album most of its vim and vigour, as well as its humanity (let’s face it, most of us aren’t filled with only rainbows and love). I don’t mean to say that Clairvoyant advocates for vengeance, but merely that the album channels its catharsis through speaking of it; here, vengeance sometimes acts as a stand-in for rebellion and resistance, entailing the two but being more provocative than them. “Olive Tree” is wonderfully obstinate — “I offered a branch/But you wanted the whole tree/Burned to never bloom again/I promise to never bloom again” — and a gratifying display of willfulness, made all the more captivating by its exultance as it explodes into being. The slow-burning title track, meanwhile, is equal parts solemn and vicious — “Hold their heads under water/Stop their gnashing of teeth/This is their baptism/A baptism of fire”. Clairvoyant might exist in a paradoxical space which can never quite resolve, but it is intriguing precisely because of that; it ties in warmth and tenderness with violence and bloodshed, a stark juxtaposition but nevertheless also messy reality.
And last but not least, there’s surely some significance to the circular narrative of Clairvoyant, which seems to end where it begins in the cycle of death and rebirth. “Cemetery Lights” concludes in disembodiment, acceptance of suffering (“Shedding my skin/Rejoice in the reverie/Shedding my skin/Rejoice in the suffering”), and moves on to the next life; there’s reason to believe, however, that it’s not onto an afterlife but instead to another bodily one (as suggested by the line “I want to start again”). “Dreamcatcher, Pt. II” kicks the album off with mention of multiple deaths and reincarnation, and in the newest incarnation, the narrator is once again disorientated, overwhelmed by his sensations. It’s slightly bittersweet to think that, perhaps, the cycle is never transcended; but at least we were witness to human resilience.