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Marissa Nadler: Strangers *

Track List

>Divers of the Dust
>Katie I Know
>Hungry Is the Ghost
>All the Colors of the Dark
>Janie in Love
>Shadow Show Diane
>Nothing Feels the Same

Album Reviews:

Spin - "[T]he Boston-based singer-songwriter condenses a lifetime of heartbreak and sacrifice into her poetic lyrics..."

Mojo (Publisher) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "[T]he balance between chill and warmth running through Marissa Nadler's seventh album is captured most effectively on 'Janie In Love'..."

Paste (magazine) - "Like its predecessors, STRANGERS comprises songs with thoughtful, sometimes lacerating lyrics. Also like its predecessors, they drift by at first, drawn along by lush musical arrangements and Nadler's haunting, portentous voice."

Pitchfork (Website) - "Nadler opens up her sound slightly, retaining her grey-skies aesthetic while bringing in a more spacious and rock-oriented sound."

Album Notes

Personnel: Marissa Nadler (vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, 12-string guitar); Milky Burgess (acoustic guitar, electric guitar); Eyvind Kang (violin, viola); Steve Moore (piano, synthesizer); Jonas Haskins (bass synthesizer); Steve Nistor (drums, percussion); Brad Mowen (percussion).

Audio Mixer: Randall Dunn.

Recording information: Avast! Studios, Seattle, Washington; Litho Studios, Seattle, Washington.

Photographer: Ebru Yildiz.

Strangers, Marissa Nadler's seventh album, is another subtle yet significant evolution in her sound. It began in earnest on 2014's July, her debut for Sacred Bones with intuitive producer/engineer Randall Dunn (Sunn O))), Earth). The songs on July offered a harrowing first-person chronicle of a failed romantic relationship. They were so poignant and confessional -- even by Nadler's own standards -- they carried the form seemingly as far as it would go. But musically, she and Dunn added sparse string arrangements, languid keyboards, and painterly reverbed electric guitars behind her almost otherworldly voice and acoustic guitar-playing style. On Strangers, they go wider and get deeper. The first-person experiential quality in her writing is de-emphasized in lieu of musical storytelling that delves into the inner lives and circumstances of characters or archetypes (we're never quite sure). They are loosely connected by dislocation and catharsis. The musical backdrop includes more prominently layered strings, edgier, more aggressively placed electric guitars, and a conventional drum kit on about half the tracks. Nadler's voice still seems to come from the realm of spirits rather than the physical attributes of the body. Her trademark monochromatic approach has taken on shades of gray, but it doesn't all happen at once. "Divers of the Dust" is almost pure ether, as her stacked vocal harmonies waft from a tunnel of reverb adorned by an organ. Her acoustic guitar introduces "Katie I Know," but a loop emerges with surf guitar and a languid organ; during a brief bridge Nadler employs Gregorian plainchant, accentuating the poignancy in the narrative. Organ and rhythm loops swirl around her vocal with stinging single-string guitar lines carrying it out. "Hungry Is the Ghost" is slowly, painstakingly rendered in a mix that recalls This Mortal Coil -- though the melody is pure Nadler. Thrumming electric guitars squall in the margins atop tom-toms and kick drum. Textured ambience, tempered by Latin-tinged electric guitars and a pedal steel, intersect her delivery and lyrics. "Janie in Love" is the hinge cut, with a vintage pop melody (think Phil Spector) elevated by harder rock instrumentation, a cello, and keyboards that swell around the lyric describing her subject as a "natural disaster that blows up everything." "Waking" and "Shadow Show Diane" use these elements and more, balancing almost impenetrable darkness with hazy light. The set comes full circle on "Dissolve," a solo acoustic love song delivered in the first person. It's a resonant closer. On Strangers, Nadler's songs and Dunn's expressionistic production gel symbiotically. The nuanced musical and sonic sophistication on display here is an extension of the songwriter's signature sound, which has perhaps become more accessible. That said, these changes mark development, not compromise. ~ Thom Jurek


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