April 26, 2019 Marissa Nadler & Stephen Brodsky – Droneflower (Album Review)
Marissa Nadler is a name that has grown more and more prominent with each bewitching album the songstress has released. On Friday, April 26th, 2019, thanks to Sacred Bones Records, the Boston resident will bestow Droneflower upon the ears of fans, a collaborative album she created with Stephen Brodsky (Mutoid Man/Cave In). A wispy, gorgeous voice of Dream Pop and acoustic majesty, how will her set of skills synthesize with the Post-Rock, Punk, and metallic vibe often purported by the diverse likes of Brodsky?
The answer lies in a soundscape of minimalist beauty, startling contrasts, and creative smoothness seldom found in the world of collaborative music. Haunting piano pieces augmented by Nadler’s voice comprise the instrumental pieces “Space Ghost I” and “Space Ghost II,” establishing a dark introspection amid such lilting funereal pieces as “Dead West,” with its spectral harmonies and piercing acoustic guitar.
“Buried In Love” envelops the listener in delicious darkness, Nadler’s voice grasping heartbreak in its resonance over sparse piano, the tune awash in drear and samples of wind, but remaining just this side of ambient. Stark in its briefness, much of the album goes by in these little bursts of emotion. “Morbid Mist,” despite the name, has a very emergent feel to it. Like the sun peeking between clouds, though, it soon wanes into silence.
One of the album’s strongest moments comes in the form of a somewhat unexpected Guns N’ Roses cover. The somber broken-hearted ode itself, “Estranged,” is given a mighty, depressing redux here – and that is meant in the best of ways. Making it their own, Nadler and Brodsky begin with a lullaby-like mode of song, before distorted keys take the thing to a whole new level. Nadler’s voice takes on a husky croon, harmonies and an understated guitar lead making of the already classic tune an even gloomier and more enticing listen. Later on, Nadler sings in her familiar voice, and one could easily believe she created the Guns N’ Roses classic in her room on her own guitar. The song’s climax is massaged into ethereal perfection at its conclusion, Nadler’s emotion both palpable and beautiful in its honesty.
Some of the smoothest licks on the album appear on “Watch the Time,” Nadler’s dreamy voice adorning each note as though floating somewhere in the firmament. Truly it appears Brodsky and Nadler have been collaborating since way farther back than their 2014 meeting in New York City during the latter musician’s July tour. Indeed, the duo shows off their skills on the album’s second cover song, the comparatively rollicking “In Spite of Me,” originally recorded by Morphine. Nadler’s lovely voice is as well-suited for such a ballad as it is for the most maudlin of her own songs.
It would not be unfair to say Nadler was paying a bit of homage to one of the few peers who rival her unique skill set on “For The Sun.” The peer being one Chelsea Wolfe, to whom similarities exist in the delivery and sound of this first proper song on Droneflower. Brodsky adds some sinister overtones to this anxious hymn, the resultant work both inspiring and dread-inducing. Nadler keeps the music silky and velvety, despite the feeling of approaching storm this fantastic tune portends.
Droneflower mixes the dreamlike with the nerve-wracking quite well, as evinced in the calming breeze of a song that is “Shades Apart.” Lulling without losing the listener, this is one whose music sounds like it might be strummed around a campfire. Nadler’s voice is the wistful dance of firelight, then, caressing all those within reach.
It is difficult not to hear Droneflower and hope fervently that both Brodsky and Nadler continue to work together in some capacity, as the fine-tuned longing of their collaboration deserves more looks, as well as some longer songs next time around, But, like anything truly wonderful, perhaps briefer bursts of light and color have a more lasting effect than those that linger too long. For its enduring craftsmanship and feeling, Cryptic Rock gives Droneflower 4.5 out of 5 stars.