Marissa Nadler
The Path of the Clouds


4.5
superb

Review

by Sowing STAFF
November 2nd, 2021 | 34 replies


Release Date: 10/29/2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Could be her best.

The Path of the Clouds begins in 1928 on the Colorado River in a handmade canoe. How and why we arrive at this place/time can be explained by Marissa Nadler’s childhood obsession with the Unsolved Mysteries series; a television show which began in 1987 and was centered around unexplained disappearances. She binge-watched reruns of the show during 2020’s pandemic lockdown, which combined with her own unique isolation (which felt like a disappearance in its own right) inspired her haunting and mesmeric tenth LP. Thus, The Path of the Clouds commences inquisitively, with Nadler’s chants of “did you make it?” searching the ethos for answers from a then record-seeking Bessie Hyde. She would have been the first woman to run the Colorado River rapids had she returned; instead, the newlywed set off on this adventure-style honeymoon with her husband Glen, and neither of them were ever seen or heard from again. The song’s atmosphere matches the bizarre and creepy nature of the subject matter, as an electric drone rises softly across the song’s mystical acoustic backdrop, culminating in Nadler’s bone-chilling delivery of the line: “Fifty years later the tale turns to legend / A woman claimed to be Bess for a second / By the fire, she said without smiling / I’m Bessie, I killed him, I was simply surviving.” This outro addresses theories that Bessie eventually escaped the wilderness alone, allegedly fleeing a relationship that was abusive behind closed doors. It’s the sort of stuff that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand on-end. From ‘Bessie, Did You Make It?’ onward, it’s clear that The Path of the Clouds is a step beyond Marissa Nadler’s “ambient/ethereal” calling card – an aptly applied descriptor for sure, but also one that fails to do justice to a piece as inspired and brimming with intrigue as The Path of the Clouds.

The fact that the record’s opening song traverses both space and time is appropriate, because The Path of the Clouds sounds like it can’t be contained by either. Here, Nadler has enlisted a talented crew of collaborators: cosmic-sounding harp player Mary Lattimore, guitarist Emma Ruth Rundle, Simon Raymonde (of Cocteau Twins), Jesse Chandler (Mercury Rev), Amber Webber (Black Mountain, Lightning Dust), and multi-instrumentalist Milky Burgess. There seems to be an active push against adjectives like breezy or lithe, and although The Path of the Clouds can be both of those things, we also get icy pianos, blustery guitar licks, and more powerful vocals from Nadler. The album represents a rockier edge to Nadler’s reputation for all things otherworldly, and the two aesthetics perform a beautiful dance. This is perhaps never more apparent than it is on ‘Couldn’t Have Done The Killing’ – which begins with Marissa’s delicate fingerpicking and builds to a series of menacing, fluctuant riffs – or ‘Well Sometimes You Just Can’t Stay’, which crashes the gates with distorted electric guitars but features a blissfully entrancing chorus. Nadler seems keenly aware that in order to tell what is, in essence, ghost stories, the experience needs to careen between the earthly and the supernatural. It’s in suspending its atmosphere between worlds that The Path of the Clouds truly lives up to its billing, providing a worthy sonic counterpart to these mysterious tales of lost life.

This could be Marissa Nadler’s best album, which is saying a lot considering her prolific output spanning two decades and nine previous LPs. Rarely has Nadler sounded this convicted or confident, and while the imaginative aspect of this record was berthed from the Unsolved Mysteries series, Nadler embraces it thematically and metaphorically to make it her own. Take for instance the title track, which reserves interrogation/judgment for the famed 1971 plane hijacker D.B. Cooper – who extorted two hundred thousand dollars in ransom money and then literally parachuted away (never to be found) – instead spinning it into a tale about making your own fate. The Path of the Clouds glides and knifes its way through these immortalized figures, extracting their stories and molding each one into something universal. It’s Marissa Nadler’s most ambitious undertaking from a lyrical perspective, but she pulls it off brilliantly while simultaneously delivering an album that sounds so lush, sweeping, and powerful that all of the subtle, intricate melodies are merely the cherry on top. This far into one’s career, it can be easy to overlook a groundbreaking effort when it happens. With Nadler’s The Path of the Clouds, she’s done all she can to avoid fading into oblivion like the characters she writes about so compellingly here.



s
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user ratings (49)
3.7
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
Sowing
Moderator
November 2nd 2021


39749 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Don't miss out on this.

Digging: Ethereal Shroud - Trisagion

Atari
Staff Reviewer
November 2nd 2021


27015 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I'm way more excited to hear this after reading that Mary Lattimore is a part of it!



lovely review. July is my favorite by her but I'm officially pretty stoked for this now. also quite intrigued by the Unsolved Mystery angle. probably would have jumped on it already if I wasn't so obsessed with that new ESR ;)

Digging: Gas - Der Lange Marsch

CrisStyles
November 2nd 2021


785 Comments


If I Could Breathe Underwater and Elegy are the highlights for me on here

Slex
November 2nd 2021


12641 Comments


this sounds intriguing, will check. her stuff is so damn dry sometimes and it sounds like that isn't the case here

Digging: The World Is a Beautiful Place... - Harmlessness

Sowing
Moderator
November 2nd 2021


39749 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

I'm reminded a little of Julia Holter's Have You In My Wilderness, only with a tad more bite. The embedded song is a good barometer, Slex.

Slex
November 2nd 2021


12641 Comments


oooo dang I love that album, i'll try to check this some time today!

Sowing
Moderator
November 2nd 2021


39749 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Nice, hopefully I didn't overhype it. My comparisons tend to be off half the time according to the general sput populace. This is beautiful either way, though.

Slex
November 2nd 2021


12641 Comments


I'm always making wild comparisons so I understand lol

seeing Emma's name is a plus for sure

neekafat
Contributing Reviewer
November 2nd 2021


21925 Comments


only heard For My Crimes but I dug that enough to probs check this (:

Sowing
Moderator
November 2nd 2021


39749 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

For me this feels a bit more fleshed out and dynamic than For My Crimes, but I'm interested to see what others think.

Relinquished
November 2nd 2021


47222 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

good pick sowing, was looking forward to this one

Pikazilla
November 3rd 2021


19926 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

just listened to Bessie and it's a beaut

Purpl3Spartan
November 3rd 2021


1976 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yep album is awesome.

Digging: Satyr - Locus

NorthernSkylark
November 3rd 2021


11793 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

July is my own personale favorite, but this sounds real lush so far!

Digging: Helado Negro - This Is How You Smile

JesperL
Contributing Reviewer
November 3rd 2021


3583 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

yes

Kinetic22
November 3rd 2021


33 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I thought For My Crimes was an absolute drag, this one I'm enjoying heaps more. Definitely one to spend the autumn with.

Digging: Obsidian Kingdom - Meat Machine

Atari
Staff Reviewer
November 3rd 2021


27015 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Elegy is stunning

naughtcturnal
November 3rd 2021


1997 Comments


Bought Strangers when it came put but haven’t heard anything else by her. Will prob have to check this

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
November 4th 2021


26502 Comments

Album Rating: 3.9

Nicely done Sow! Definitely liking it better with every spin. The collaborations are on point and it has more variety than her previous albums.

Digging: Ethereal Shroud - Trisagion

figure337
November 4th 2021


721 Comments


I should give this a listen. Saw her open up for Ghost a while back and thought she was great.



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