I have been obsessively listening abysskiss by Adrianne Lenker for the past two weeks I’ve been knowing it. I knew very little about Lenker, far from being the vocalist of Big Thief, which I knew but hadn’t really engage with its sound. With the exception of the well-known single ‘Mythological Beauty‘ –which, to me, had a special and mysterious aura that I wasn’t able to find in the rest of the album– I didn’t think it was a band for me.
Having said that, I must confess: I’m a picky culture consumer. It is hard for me to engage with artistic productions that do not resonate –profoundly– with me. Sometimes is not that much a matter of form, genre or aesthetics, but more about the soul of said production.
abysskiss is a very simple album. But has a special charm, a thing that had me as soon as I listened for the first time. It has an undeniably nostalgic aura that I cherish. Those soft, soothing acoustic melodies are merged with the rawness of the lyrics that sprout naturally, sometimes even as half-spoken vocals. It has also a Radiohead vibe that keeps away any similarity with classic conforming indie acoustic songs. In some of them you can even hear some background domestic sounds, completing a picture of intimate everydayness.
I can’t help but relate, in a way, Lenker’s beautiful and painful stories and images with the book I was reading when I got into the album: Sleepless Nights by Elizabeth Hardwick. The thoughtfully written book with its elliptical and fragmentary format and the album share their testimonial of the misogynist violence towards women; the imprint of pain and sacrifice and the silence and repression that comes with it. Music and literature respectively exorcize its own past demons. The non-linear time narrative is another feature that both works use and that, in abysskiss is merged with metaphysics, animism and the embrace of death and finitude.
‘terminal paradise’ is the song that opens the album and the one that features those themes more beautifully: “worm / will you return me / to the robin’s beak? / i’ll be a bird (…) see my death become a trail / and the trail leads to a flower / i will blossom in your sail / every dreamed and waking hour.”
The metaphysical reflections are not exclusive of Lenker’s solo work, but indeed permeate in the creations of her band. Regarding their upcoming third LP she stated: ““Making friends with the unknown… All my songs are about this,” “If the nature of life is change and impermanence, I’d rather be uncomfortably awake in that truth than lost in denial.” (Source)
abysskiss as a whole is a cohesive work but has some ups and downs along the journey that, in a way, follow a life narrative. In the midst of the album it is found , to me, the gem of them all: ‘symbol’.
Lenker’s work is filled with intimacy, simplicity and a timelessness that adds to it some kind of universality. For someone who’s constantly comparing artworks across disciplines and periods, many other voices ressonate when listening to her, not only musicians. Older souls seem to speak trough her, like a young and daydreaming Jane Eyre: “Wilderness / Vast abyss / Will we ever kiss?”.