Initial clues as to the mood of this debut album from London-based singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist AA Williams come from the song titles: “All I Asked For (Was to End It All)”; “Dirt”; “Love and Pain”. Suspicions are borne out by the music, which is predominantly lowering and crepuscular: a series of long, ponderous crescendos, often in three-four time, followed by precipitous diminuendos, with piano motifs rotating, cellos droning, drums thundering ominously and Williams’s rich, powerful voice quivering and quavering. At times, Forever Blue sounds like slowed-down death-metal; on “Fearless” she is accompanied by the horror-film growl of Cult of Luna’s Johannes Persson.
It’s an impressively confident sound-world, though one that owes a certain debt to OK Computer-era Radiohead: the cinematic soundscapes, the soaring, echo-laden vocals, the scratchy, gently strummed electric guitar, the otherworldly scrapings and scatterings.
When all the forces at her disposal are unleashed — the multi-tracked vocals, the walloping drums, the strings, the guitar — it’s all very grand and even at times majestic. But if only those clouds would disperse occasionally, or even part for long enough to allow a glimmer of sunlight to shaft through. The closest it comes is on the closing track, the self-explanatory “I’m Fine”, which eschews the quiet-loud-quiet template of much of the album in favour of something dreamy, almost sweet, Williams’s voice achieving a simple purity as it ascends a scale amid piano and cellos. There is even birdsong. Blessed relief.
‘Forever Blue’ is released by Bella Union
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