Adrianne Lenker



by Brendan Schroer USER (129 Reviews)
January 26th, 2019 | 7 replies

Release Date: 2018 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A little loneliness can be a good thing

Just Adrianne and a guitar. That’s how I could describe the majority of abysskiss. The album is teeming with space, as if every note feels a certain guilt in imposing upon one another. Adrianne Lenker’s strange tunings and hypnotic fingerpicking abilities bring an alluring sense of isolation that calls the work of one particular artist to mind: Nick Drake. Seriously, with the exception of the vocals, abysskiss sounds as though Drake came back from the grave to create a follow-up to Pink Moon. And it’s a bit funny, because if you’re familiar with Lenker’s band Big Thief, this is quite a far cry from that. Sure, the folk elements are present in both, but Big Thief is much more interested in planting the folk influences firmly into an alternative sound and aesthetic. Big Thief is indie, whereas abysskiss sounds like folk distilled into its purest form.

Frankly, that’s what makes it so refreshing. Its persistent low hum makes it a perfect album for nighttime driving, peaceful and calm while opening the floodgates for plenty of deep thoughts and contemplation. Lenker herself possesses a vocal style that’s incredibly wispy and fragile, yet able to convey such raw emotional power in the most unexpected places. “Symbol,” which remains one of the best songs on offer, drones on and on until everything just bleeds together like a melted painting, but Lenker’s seductive dreamlike tone ensures that none of the song’s power is lost. Well, that and some really expressive guitar playing. If anything, the melding of her vocals and her precise fingerpicking only enhances the experience. “Blue and Red Horses” may very well be one of the best juxtapositions of melancholy and sentimental happiness I’ve ever heard. It only cycles through four sets of guitar chords, but somewhere in the repetitions, Lenker was able to find the sweet spot that captures both euphoric joy and crushing sorrow. Her childlike vocal performance only makes it more powerful.

Within abysskiss’ short tracklist, there are no frills or gimmicks that Adrianne Lenker could potentially hide behind. Whether you like her or not, it seems pretty fucking clear that this is a truly genuine depiction of her style and personality as a musician. Even the introductory number “Terminal Paradise” is a very understated way to kick off the collection, featuring a light blend of soft fingerpicking and a subtle sprinkling of tasteful piano melodies. It’s all very sparse; in fact, “Out of Your Mind” is the only song that even approaches anything resembling distortion or feedback - or a fuller sound in general - in its instrumentation. Personally, I say “less is more.” The more haunting these tunes are, the more mysterious and interesting they seem to become. The lyrics help flesh out the auditory images too, being just cryptic enough while still sounding immensely personal. Check out some passages here:

From “Symbol:”

“Fly make flea make haste make waste eight makes infinity
Times I've tried to make breaks, embrace for the enemy
Meet my face to face time try to find the diamond
Counting time as time counts me, the river to the island”

And from “10 Miles:”

“To rise in the dark
Like birds preying on skin
We prey with our oxygen
Joel, nothing is real
But we still have that feel
You're closing up the bar
I'm warming up the car
Ten miles away”

“10 Miles” also happens to be the song that closes the album, ending it on a suitably haunting and inconclusive note. And really, “haunting and inconclusive” is a great way to describe abysskiss as a whole. It asks many difficult questions, and yet you’re always just being too sucked in by the mesmerizing guitar work and entrancing vocals that you don’t really seek out the answers. The sense of mystery is the real payoff of abysskiss, and wasn’t that part of what made past greats like Nick Drake and Elliott Smith so interesting" In any case, I simply can’t let this album be overlooked. It’s far too beautiful and spellbinding to be a forgotten footnote of 2018, regardless of the popularity of Lenker’s main project.

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Comments:Add a Comment 
January 25th 2019


Album Rating: 4.5

That 3.6 rating is criminal

Staff Reviewer
January 26th 2019


Album Rating: 4.0

Nice review! Agreed this is much better than the rating and reception suggest

Digging: Julia Jacklin - Crushing

January 26th 2019


Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks man! Yeah, this thing is so underrated

January 26th 2019


Good work. Have to hear this.

Digging: Amelia Arsenic - Queen of Risk

January 26th 2019


Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks dude. If you want some beautifully introspective and sparse folk music, this will be right up your alley

January 27th 2019


Album Rating: 4.0

I swear to only this atm

Digging: Anne Briggs - The Time Has Come

January 27th 2019


Album Rating: 4.5

It's a good 'un :D

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