Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Album review: Rachel Zeffira - The Deserters

It feels wrong to say a classically-trained soprano is better known for her work with the frontman of a mid-league English proto-punk ensemble. Yet that’s exactly how it is for Rachel Zeffira, whose sublime Cat’s Eyes collaboration with The Horrors’ doomsayer Faris Badwan brought her to the attention of indiedom in 2011.

But, unlike Mark Lanegan and Isobel Campbell’s similarly coined beauty/beast interplay, it was the Canadian chanteuse’s chandelier tones that stole the show; often casting Badwan aside as a moping, brutish mule while her airy purr took flight over a sea of delicate melodies. Her debut solo LP The Deserters finds Zeffira continuing to pursue this harmonic aura, creating a record that’s frequently soothing and every so often surprising.

Built around crisp piano slithers and filigree strings, “Here on In” and “Silver City Days” glide along with an elegance that’s both swan-like and technically sublime in finish. But such frail balladry has the tendency to trundle and “Star”’s midstream meander and the tedious My Bloody Valentine reinterpretation “To Here Knows Where” wisp out as anonymous, joyless drones.

Thankfully, “Break the Spell” steps up the pace and its eerie gothic pop, pirouetting and twisting like primetime Kate Bush, is a glorious album high. Carry on in this form, and Rachel Zeffira’s reputation will finally be of her own making.

First published in the print edition of Under the Radar

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