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Published on June 5th, 2019 | by voxx

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Weyes Blood – Titanic Rising

Glacial beauty from Natalie Mering’s buoyant fourth album…

Natalie Mering was 16 years old when she first performed as Weyes Blood (or “Bhlud”, as she sometimes preferred), taking her name from a Flannery O’Connor novel and her inspiration from Syd Barrett. It was, she told Mojo Magazine earlier this year, a “saving grace” to be able to perform as an improvisatory solo musician with an acoustic guitar, because nobody else wanted to be in a band with her: “Nobody took it as seriously as I did.”

In the 15 years since, Mering has found no shortage of people keen to work with her, from Jackie O Motherf**ker to Ariel Pink, Perfume Genius to Father John Misty. Yet over four albums, the nomadic California-born artist has evolved along her own distinctive lines, Weyes Blood’s musical stem cells – noise, drone, freak-folk – slowly mutating and multiplying into the blissful cosmic pop that fills Titanic Rising. It’s not an entirely unexpected leap forward – 2016’s Front Row Seat To Earth saw her moving away from the Marble Index margins and into the honeyed Laurel Canyon light but even so, Titanic Rising is a revelation.

These opulent, sculptural songs have sacrificed none of Mering’s idiosyncrasy, or ability to unnerve. Dreamy opener ‘A Lot’s Gonna Change’ has its burnished piano framed by a blast of chill space-age synths, like an eerie call sign marking a new transmission. The fabulous ‘Everyday’, meanwhile, might sound like a perfect slice of Carpenters songcraft, but there’s something almost uncanny about its endlessly proliferating melodic twists and curlicues, as if it’s been taken over by an AI generator fed ’70s radio. Like Julia Holter’s Have You In My Wilderness, Titanic Rising is the sound of an intractably experimental writer exploring and inhabiting “conventional” song structures, and the results are tremendous.

On the surface, at least, this is a record committed to the idea of connection, of reaching out, of love. “Give me something I can see,” sings Mering on the Judee Sill swoon of ‘Something To Believe’, “something bigger and louder than me” – while ‘Andromeda’, a spectacular re-imaging of The Carpenters’ ‘Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft’, looks up at the sky and decides “Love is calling/It’s time to let it through”.

There are little references to “relatable” everyday incidents on Titanic Rising – drinking too much coffee, a party conversation about monogamy’s limits – but Mering always returns to hidden messages, lost signals. It’s why she evokes Hoagy Carmichael on the antique echo of ‘Picture Me Better’ or sings of a century “lost to memories” on ‘A Lot’s Gonna Change’. The bit of Titanic Rising visible above the water is beautiful; the nine-tenths submerged make it fascinating. Mering might no longer be the only one taking her music seriously, but she’s still out there on her own.

- By Jake White


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