Adrianne Lenker – ‘Abysskiss’ review

Big Thief singer Adrianne Lenker returns with this melancholy solo project, a raw, vulnerable, confessional record

Words: George Mcmillan

Speaking about this album, a side-project away from her beloved indie-rock band Big Thief, Minnesota-born Lenker has said: “My first solo record I made was ‘Hours Were the Birds’. I had just turned 21 and moved to New York City where I was sleeping in a warehouse, working in a restaurant and photographing pigeons. Now five years later, another skin is being shed.”

Although not a million miles from the folky sound of Big Thief, Adrianne Lenker’s new solo project achieves a point of difference through delicate composition and her distinctive voice. Use of repetition and layering set the listener into a trance-like state, brought on by circling guitar patterns and hypnotic piano melodies, adding texture and ambient undertones. ‘Blue and Red Horses’, a track filled with pure imagery, she uses angels, nature and youth to convey her emotions. The song’s ambiguity is soon cleared up when she sings: “I’m not a boy with a lot of nerve / do you want to toy with me?”

 Since this is an album defined by vulnerability, it seems fitting that it should end on a solemn note. ’10 Miles’, the last track fades as the line “To die in your arms / your words forming again” drifts over the listener.

In the two years since the release of their debut album “Masterpiece” Big Thief have extensively toured, playing their music to thousands across the world. ‘Abysskiss’ reflects ambiguously on this 27-year-old’s recent experiences with the utmost openness, as sung in ‘On What Can You Say’: “I’ve been busy turning into more transparent”. It may not be the most exciting project to be released by the singer, but it’s complexity and composition make for a perfect power-down playlist.