Review Summary: alone, in the deep
It's a few minutes before six on a cold autumn Tuesday morning. The sky is pitch black as a light pollution-induced headache starts unfolding itself in my already foggy brain. I could have slept for another hour, but that would mean continuing to spend over 30 percent of my paycheck on, fucking hell, getting to work
. Sure, this current situation means sacrificing sleep, being on a train with similarly zombified people, and loitering around a deserted campus for some 90 minutes, but it's worth it.. right?
It was this exact setting that allowed As The Moon Rests
to click. A.A. Williams' second album is, as implied by its title, a dense, heavy, and rather overwhelming experience. Clocking in at over an hour of gothic-tinged post rock, it is a notably less accessible affair than the artist's 2020 debut. While there are several memorable melodies to be found here, songs prioritise atmosphere and ambience, weaving a cohesive experience while mostly managing to craft individual identities for themselves. Even though the record’s opening cuts boast the soaring choruses and spacious production A.A. Williams has become known for, the songs are palpably more well-rounded and dynamic. ‘Murmur’s explosive riff is aided by its patient fadeouts, allowing for gorgeous contrasts that are equal parts bleak and towering. However, as ‘Pristine’ announces itself, it’s clear that As The Moon Rests
knows how to stretch its dynamics in more than one way. The song spends a full two minutes quietly building up to a drawn-out, largely instrumental climax that feels the exact right type of exhausting: rewarding by means of its tangible agony.
Thankfully, not all of As The Moon Rests
relies on this loud-quiet-climax structure: the soothing ‘Shallow Water’ is a meandering meditation on existence, while the more slowcore-tinged ‘Golden’ feels like a relatively straightforward exhale. Yet, in spite of the record’s clear vision and patience, its subtle twists and turns are precisely that: subtle. Songs have a tendency of blending together: something that can both be deemed a strength and a weakness. While it makes the record less accessible and digestible, this very overwhelming nature is what sets A.A. Williams apart and shaped an identity for the record as a whole. The artist is at her very best when she is contrasting shades of darkness by means of annihilating tenderness with sheer onslaughts. Album highlight ‘Alone in the Deep’ is sinister in its peaceful verses yet meticulous in overpowering all that is near with an expansive, crushing chorus. It feels like the ultimate materialisation of anxieties in one massive track that is focused in its destruction yet organic in its emotion.
Yet, for all its wonderfully dense qualities, A.A. Williams’ voice remains the star of her show. It’s as consistently powerful as it is calming: it fits tranquil acoustic soundscapes as well as devastating post-metal disintegrations. As The Moon Rests
is a vulnerable record in disguise: its emotions consistently shrouded in darkness yet amplified by every expansive element. It knows how to soundtrack gloomy mornings unlike anything else. Perhaps that pitch black, ice cold six AM train is worth it.