7D Media 2019
Flying high above lo-fi, Seattle artiste cleanses one’s soul through primal scream and pacific dream.
Classical training can either hamper or unhinge musicians’ avant-garde leanings, yet they complement each other to a great effect in Beth Fleenor’s oeuvre. She’s been working towards such a balance for about a decade now, and her path to this, her full-length studio debut, is strewn with a series of live releases, so this record’s title track – which first appeared on one of those back in 2013 – is a testament to the toil and trouble. But anguish rubs shoulders with euphoria here, in her hypnotic melange of vocal acrobatics, where human beatboxing and phonetics-based artificial language create a certain disquiet, and instrumental numbers, where clarinet and loop pedals lay down a strange elation, the overall results amounting to catharsis.
Delivered completely solo, these pieces are possessed with multiple voices that chant, cry and summon inner demons – often simultaneously – yet the trance they induce is irresistibly pleasant, and when a cappella evaporates the folk-informed chamber cuts come to the fore to soothe burnt psyche or, as suggested by “Dolphy” whose low tones and vaudevillian villainy feel quite creepy, up the worry. The pop accessibility of “Go Fast” stems not only from English lyrics but also from its warm, captivating simplicity, while shorter offerings – “Invocation” and “Shrill” sound a tad hysterical, when exotic melodies seem to compromise a groove, and if the dervish dance behind “Kali Out” may look belligerent, the finale of “So Much Hurts” will bring the drama to a close with a solemn salve of pseudo-orchestral lines and an uplifting prayer.
There’s neither push nor pull in this suspenseful beauty: Crystal has landed to stay.