We've dug the music of Lady Lazarus (recording name of Melissa Ann Sweat) ever since we heard her debut album Mantic. She released a new album a few months ago called All My Love In Half Light and you should check it out.
This collection of nine songs is spacious and hazy, punctuated by occasional moments of clarity and force. For an example, listen to "Wonder Inc." The verse slowly metes out its melodic phrases ("I wonder….") over a basic figure that perpetuates for more than two minutes, producing a pleasurable lull that makes the chorus rousing and powerful. All the tracks primarily feature voice and a piano that is often recorded as a far-off echo. The chords and notes seem distant but they are generally strong enough to ring out like ripples on a pond, expanding and colliding and building, and suddenly you realize they aren't ripples so much as a vortex that draws you in. It's an immersive record, though with its use of repetition and droning texture, it may have a sheen of impenetrability at first. But that vanishes after multiple listens – suddenly the Magic Eye isn't a weird surface but actually a rocket ship. We unfortunately aren't in a time or place that many people can give anything more than a few listens, but if you meet this record on its terms, I think you'll like it very much.
This album provided me many moments of moving beauty and also moved me to reach for the dictionary (in case you didn't know, "Lapsarian" refers to the fall of mankind and "Argosy" is a large fleet of merchant of ships, rich in cargo). Lady Lazarus has a specific aesthetic and sensibility, and that is attractive to me as a listener. It feels personal and distinct. I realize this may not come across as the compliment I intend it to be, but All My Love In Half Light is a wonderful record to fall asleep to. Flitting over that liminal space between wakefulness and sleep adds depth to these songs because they seem to channel that state to some degree.
Whether fully alert or starting to drift, it is a real delight to listen to Melissa's voice resonate in harmony with the piano. It feels like a natural extension of herself. This dynamic, almost fluid, fusion of voice and instrument is sometimes subverted to great effect. Maybe it's just me, but "Goudunov" struck me as a very fascinating dichotomy between surface and subtext. We have the voice singing, relatively calmly, "I am good enough." But you know how most people say that when they clearly don't think they are? When they are trying to convince themselves? I think that's what's going when you consider the piano. The churning back-and-forth figure is a jittery seesaw, the internal anxiety we seek to quell. Like how a duck glides placidly on the pond but is kicking furiously underneath. While it captures a state that is painful (being wracked with self doubt and trying to convey otherwise), it is a state that is universal, and that's why I love the song.
Though I don't think I grasped everything about this record immediately – and I still haven't – I was pretty hooked from first hearing opening track "Lapsarian." Like "Constant Apples," which uses strings, this one is a little different than all the others because it uses what sounds like an accordian or bagpipe or some other billowing instrument, as opposed to the piano. It reminded me a bit of this song I really like from a few years ago called "My" by an artist called Okay. It's an interesting parallel because both seem to address a relationship, too. I haven't really unraveled a lot of the lyrics since I've been hearing the words less literally than aurally, but some of the moments make me think about the tougher side of relationships or them ending and wondering about fitting with another person – or if you even can. "Do Not Go Gentle" starts with "When I gave you my heart, you tore it apart." The piano becomes an ever increasing pound, like a march or pending storm. Again, the instrument seems to be shading the emotional read of the words. However, there is more ambiguity to the record than "love sucks" and I need to spend more time to feel comfortable about saying what it means to me.
What I can say is that I do really like it and it's been a pleasure to listen to as much as I have thus far. You should purchase the record on Bandcamp. And before you go, check out the video for "Lapsarian." I like most that it kept defying my expectations as I guessed at what was happening or going to happen. It's well-shot, too.