Adrianne Lenker – abysskiss

Big Thief's Adrianne Lenker is restless, inquisitive and haunting on abysskiss, her first solo effort in four years

Album Review by Fraser MacIntyre | 01 Oct 2018
Album title: abysskiss
Artist: Adrianne Lenker
Label: Saddle Creek
Release date: 5 Oct

Pensive but always on the road to somewhere, Adrianne Lenker returns with ten songs deliberately presented almost as naked as they were when she decided they belonged in each other’s company. Other instruments and vocal layers subtly accentuate the emotional undercurrent of each of these acoustic meditations – which often feel as breathtakingly intimate as a phone recording you weren’t supposed to hear – but never detract from the raw magic abysskiss exudes throughout.

The last time Big Thief performed in Glasgow, Lenker opened with a song penned only a few nights prior, a borrowed electric in her hands as she’d left her own somewhere in the Highlands. That moment, entirely vulnerable to imperfection, showcased the tender yet disarming beauty that's often lost when an idea is ‘improved upon’ a little too much. Hearing a song while it's still an unfolding mystery in the mind of its creator is a rare pleasure.

Laying her process this bare before a continuously swelling audience is a courageous and necessary move as the restless feeling of notions forming and expanding, even as she plucks and strums, indicates that Lenker still has much to articulate despite the widely acclaimed Capacity arriving only last year. In 10 miles she sings, 'You’re closing up the bar / I’m warming up the car' and ' We kiss very hard and wild.' Earlier in the record: 'baby is coming soon / Wonder if she’ll know where she’s come from.' Her subject matter is often abstract, but with evocative lines such as these arriving on occasion a sense of drama and wonder permeates the record and keeps us listening close.

Recorded in a week with her friend Luke Temple, abysskiss captures a fleeting moment in time, though some minor creative decisions taken feel as if they could have larger implications in the future, as the understated synth in womb leaves us curious as to how her unmistakeable vocal would sound accompanied only by cold electronics. Said vocal is as complex as ever: delicate and strong, soothing yet uneasy, each listen revealing new emotional depth.

'Cradle more how you feel,' Lenker sings, championing the worth of spontaneity. Tellingly, the cover of the record is a black and white photograph. These songs have yet to be coloured in, and yet they affirm the singular talent of Lenker – always inquisitive, finding joy and wisdom in the places many wouldn’t think to look – just as thoroughly as Mary and Parallels did.

Listen to: terminal paradise, blue and red horses, 10 miles