SPELLLING - The Turning Wheel Music Album Reviews

SPELLLING - The Turning Wheel Music Album Reviews
The myth-skewing, Oakland-based artist is a chameleonic pop singer on her third album. Whimsical and urgent, these are fairy tales meant to wake us up.

Oakland-based artist Chrystia Cabral, who makes music as SPELLLING, has a knack for spinning fairy tales into jagged and reflective truths. In her lyrics, picture-book scenery and happy endings are swapped with existential longing, political criticism, and unsparing self-questioning. She often incorporates pop music itself as another myth to retell slantwise. On 2019’s Mazy Fly, for instance, she cast lines from an upbeat Paul McCartney song into a dark exploration of the Atlantic slave trade: “Hang our hands across the water,” she sang in “Haunted Water,” subverting Macca’s lyrics with a simple but cutting verb choice to address the deadly history that brought Africans to the Americas: “Hang our hands across the sky.”

SPELLLING’s ambitious third album, The Turning Wheel, serves as a culmination of her myth-skewing sensibility, with decidedly more hi-fi production. The record’s title echoes a line from “Rumpelstiltskin,” in which an imp spins straw into gold at a high human price—a first-born child. “So much about the [songwriting] process is about discovering who I am,” Cabral said in a 2018 interview, and the spinning wheel appears in her lyrics as a spiral of sturm und drang that her characters must navigate on their quests toward self-knowledge. “When I’m complete/I think I’ve found my way around/This Mortal Coil,” she sings on the show-stopping “Revolution,” and the words could be her way of name-checking both the Shakespearian symbol of struggle and the foundational indie-pop group—she invites us to listen for these layers of meaning, to draw our own connections.

On her previous albums, 2017’s Pantheon of Me and Mazy Fly, Cabral looped her voice over swampy chords played on two primary synthesizers—the compact microKORG and a vintage Juno-106—both of which contributed to the thin, bedroom-pop atmosphere of the music. On The Turning Wheel, Cabral favors the fuller tones of a piano. With horns, strings, harps, banjo, and bassoon following in her wake, she reintroduces herself as a chameleonic pop singer. The album’s first half is gleeful, soaring. “Emperor With an Egg” starts like a slow jam before speeding into a chorus that might sound at home on a mid-2000s crossover indie track. The velvety drum-machine ambience of the second half evokes her earlier work, but the crisper production is dramatically more dynamic. A weary song about hard work, “Magic Act” brightens when Cabral sings about turning her “brain [into] a garden,” the soundscape so lush that it feels like its own habitat apart from the rest of the album, with flutters of high-hat and gravelly low notes digging in the soil.

For all its high concepts and ornate orchestration, the true star of The Turning Wheel is Cabral’s voice. We hear her in clearer relief than ever before—ranging, distinctive, and unafraid to show her influences. Her breathy, pinched delivery on the phenomenal opener “Little Deer” suggests Kate Bush and even Marilyn Monroe, another player in the American mythology, while her twee intonations at the beginning of the title track point toward the delicate, chamber-pop records of Anohni. Rather than sounding derivative, Cabral tries on these familiar sounds like meticulous costumes. Her own identity is unmistakable—an actor you recognize from role to role.

While The Turning Wheel was originally planned for release in September of last year, its whimsical presentation and urgent, socially conscious lyrics give it a timeless feeling. There is no fantasy in Cabral’s pop packaging; we meet characters who are in “grave danger” because they’re “waving wands with wizards,” viewing a troubled earth from “high in a tower we call America.” We hear of happily-ever-after concepts like “destiny” and “legacy,” but before her characters can even contemplate a happy ending, they first must “crawl into the daylight.” Cabral’s folklore reminds us that life is arduous, long and full of unexpected beauty, if we just open our eyes to it. Fairy tales are not always comforting—some are written in order to wake us up.
Share on Google Plus

About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
SPELLLING - The Turning Wheel Music Album Reviews SPELLLING - The Turning Wheel Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on July 05, 2021 Rating: 5


Post a Comment