Top Notes: experimental electronic-inflected folk pop, harp, metal
Mid Notes: lava, android choruses, rebirth, sincerity
Base Notes: a staggeringly intimate yet grandiose pop opus that modernizes the singer-songwriter palette
On Alexandra Drewchin’s latest album as Eartheater, Phoenix: Flames Are Dew Upon My Skin, the artist appears as a winged demon, emerging from some primordial ooze, eyes flickering, sparks flying. And from the first notes of the project, she makes one thing clear: This is an album about rebirth.
Phoenix is an amalgamation of the different sides, or “resurrections,” Drewchin has shown over her now decade-long career under the moniker. She’s the powerful singer-songwriter that emerged on earlier projects and in last year’s Trinity, but she’s also the uncompromising experimentalist that pieced together 2018’s disorientingly-textural IRISIRI. On the album, these disparate worlds coalesce, with Drewchin welding a new version of herself out of her once-separate masteries and personas.
At its heart, Phoenix is built around Eartheater as a songwriter. It’s underpinned by her nimbly-plucked baroque guitar, densely composed orchestral arrangements, and soaring vocals. On standouts like opener “Airborne Ashes” and “How To Fight,” these elements ebb and flow freely until they collide with the tracks’ heaving atmospheres and electronic textures, their tectonic friction building an emotional intensity that feels elemental.
Obtuse, “gestural” tracks flow between the album’s more structured moments, like the unfolding, trilling string loops of “Metallic Taste Of Patience” and squelchy atmospherics on “Burning Feather,” and on “Kiss Of The Phoenix,” she stretches metal blast beats into an elastic texture that whips around you while harps flourish and sirens wail in the distance.
Elsewhere, Eartheater opens up further avenues and spheres of influence. “Volcano” sounds a whole lot like the Cocteau Twins’ particular brand of shoegaze, but juxtaposed with piano stabs that add ’00s trance to the palette. And “Mercurial Nerve” feels like futuristic take on a medieval chant sung by a choir that have undergone cybernetic body modifications.
On “Diamond In The Bedrock”, Drewchin sings, “All the confidence could be my downfall,” but by the end of the album, its clear that her openness to all of the selves, the “techniques that had fossilized inside of her,” and her embrace of artistic rebirth have been just the opposite.