Jagjaguwar presents the second album of Briana Marela, entitled All Around Us. Here, Marela’s voice lies at the centre of a swirl of melodic electronics, stuttering drum machines and, well, here own voice again, multitracked into a choir. The LP release reflects this with its own swirly design.
LP £15.49 JAG268LP
Black vinyl LP on Jagjauwar.
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CD £9.99 JAG268CD
CD on Jagjaguwar.
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Briana Marela’s ‘All Around Us’ begins in a swirl of vocal loops and damp keyboard notes, the two circling around each other until you can’t tell what’s singing and what’s not. Such is the kind of deceptive pop music she makes best: the components of her sound, which alone are serene, seem to dig at each other almost aggressively. “Follow It” eventually takes on a drumbeat that sounds like a builder’s drill and augments it with string swells that have no place on a construction site. It’s thrilling and oxymoronic music that revolves around Marela’s ability to write nothing but good choruses.
On first take, Marela sounds like a loop master working with the same set of ideals as Colleen, but as her record develops into synth-glazed electronica like “Take Care Of Me”, it becomes clear she is schooled in many different abstractions of pop music -- this particular track missteps with its drumbeat like Baths might, while keeping the melodic calm of Julia Holter on ‘Ekstasis’. It’s smartly written stuff that sounds bustling but clear, like a crowd you can see through to the person you’re looking for. “Dani” could be nothing more than a Sigur Ros ballad, with bold piano chords that sound like an explosion happening underwater, but Marela lets the track meander, adding in bizarre flourishes of violin and approaching a vocal duet at the halfway mark. It’s symphonic, but symphonies can be peculiar.
‘All Around Us’ is most exciting when it sounds like an exhibition, an improvisation: on “Everything Is New”, it’s like Marela is testing things out, seeing how far her voice can stretch into new age ambient before she curls it around into a proper song. She eventually decides to layer the droning vocal chants underneath her lyrics, and it sounds beautiful; what’s even better, though, is getting to hear her develop it all. There are few artists who you get to hear using their working as a form of presentation -- the aforementioned Colleen is one, as is guitar looper Dustin Wong -- and Marela does it excellently.
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