The Whole of Each Eye by AbroniaRelease date: October 25, 2019
Label: Cardinal Fuzz
Bristling with a kind of voodoo energy usually reserved for New Orleans witch meets, Portland’s Abronia cut a fine swathe of mystical prowess across the length of their sophomore album The Whole of Each Eye. A psychedelic smorgasbord of quivering goth and weird acid folk, all tied up in a neat, almost punky attitude, it’s akin to entering a night-time world slightly displaced from everything you thought was real. Bewitching times.
Much of this is down to the extraordinary vocals of Keelin Mayer, and as she weaves yet another tapestry of haunted lyrics, the discordant band behind her adds to the oppressive mood. It’s at time when Keelin’s saxophone seeps in though, like on ‘Rope of Fire’ that you get a glimpse of a band seeking to explore outside the confines of the norm. What was all very much Bad Seeds for a moment, suddenly becomes an elegiac, glistening ode to the night.
The lilting ‘Cross the Hill’ provides some remarkable pedal steel which elevates the track into a hazy stupor of woozy psychedelia. It’s unusual to hear the instrument played within this context and works perfectly to create a heady atmosphere. ‘New Winds for the Warming Sands’ slows the pace into a haunting crawl before exploding in full progressive fervour as Keelin takes the sax into free form territory, each burst adding to the incessant build up of the band behind it all. At the all too brief climax, it’s a pure release of energy which throws your body outwards.
That release continues into the excellent ‘Half Hail’ as the marching rhythm through the middle section stirs up the voodoo tribalism. It’s pure Kosmische music serving to entice you with it’s avant garde tendencies as once again the sax drags you into it’s vortex. The scream of absolute fury right at the end could almost be the sound of your mind simply exploding with absolute psych joy.
The epic ‘Cauldron’s Gold’ evokes a pastoral quality although can’t resist a little Sturm und Drang as it floats along its path. It’s the emotional quality at the heart of the band that makes this such a special album though. A controlled emotion, built to cut loose just at the right moments, it provides an unpredictable quality to the album as a whole. By tempering this approach, and not letting it overshadow the album, Abronia hit a perfect curve on their journey.
Probably a little “out there” for wider consumption, it will be interesting to see how this band fit in. Their psychedelic qualities allow them to find a niche within that “genre” but they may be a little goth for most. Either way, for those who get sucked into Abronia’s world, you are in for a mighty treat as this album is damn near perfect. It sounds unlike anything else out there at the moment, and with the added colours of sax and pedal steel, only All Them Witches may lay claim to being a close companion in weird gothic countrified, free form jazz psych. Now there is a label to live up to. On this showing, Abronia simply own it already.