Music

Weyes Blood: The Innocents

Photo: Shawn Brackbill

Today's weather forecast predicts rain, pain, moths and tombstones. Best pack an umbrella.


Weyes Blood

The Innocents

Label: Mexican Summer
US Release Date: 2014-10-21
UK Release Date: 2014-10-20
Website
Amazon
iTunes

Picture this. A field in England. The year of our Lord 1645. A crisp, wintry dawn breaks across a tragi-glorious landscape ravaged by civil war and reeking of pain and pestilence. These boggy moors of middle England are your new home now as sadly you've recently found yourself in contention with Mr. Witchfinder General himself, Matthew Hopkins, regarding "Nefarious lunar activities". Yes, you are a ghost. Yes, like Bruce Willis. So make yourself comfortable and give the leeches and rats wide berth. This picture was the odd, "ye olde worldy" cryptic magick conjured by Weyes Blood's début The Outside Room. In America. In 2013. Dusty, muddy, drowning, hypnotic and bloody...and bloody creepy. If that was Outside prepare to step "inside". But bring your wellies; this could still get messy.

It's probably safe to suggest Weyes Blood's Natalie Mering is an old soul. Not your typical bump n' grind, "No Moët-No Show-ay", 21st century pop star. A multi-instrumentalist and one time apprentice herbalist whose father slipped the sunfried '70s West Coast music scene to become a Christian congregation leader, Mering cut her teeth with the likes of Jackie-O Motherfucker, Axolotl and Ariel Pink. Yeah, those weirdo types your folks warned you about. Her second record, The Innocents, arrives inspired by Jack Clayton's spellbinding, '60s-spookfest reworking of Henry James' 1898 Gothic griever Turn of the Screw. Its themes of loss, loneliness and the poisoned decay of youthful dreams haunt the hallways and stairwells of The Innocents. Shiver ye not though, for Mering's impressive return hugs a little warmer than before, delivering a more cathartic experience with flickers of hope and even -- zoiks! -- glimmers of sly, subtle humor. Not just gallows humor either.

First blood "Land of Broken Dreams" finds Mering as sole survivor on the battlefield -- "The failure of some man's world" -- wrapped in whistling winds and gun smoke, strumming a mandolin in salute to fallen comrades. A battle is won, a war is lost. The sweet melody bunny hops around the ashes. Evoking Eddie Vedder's sad shanties from Into the Wild, its lyrics strike prophetic and cursed, at odds with the exalted giddiness of the tune: "We were just born to buy then die and change nothing." Lana Del Rey in the time of cholera kicking against the consumerism and self-obsessed vanity of our modern age. As throughout, Mering's voice is the star attraction. Soulful, sage and stirring deep, a heady brew of Nico, Beth Gibbons and Sandy Denny.

Recent single "Hang on", though, sounds more like Cate Le Bon's recent excursions. Wistful, pastoral folk but slightly unhinged, slightly medieval. A mantra for survival, a candle in the dark, "Till the end alone...I will hang on when the rains come." Onward toward the light! It ain't over 'til someone with a blue face bellows "FREEDOMMM!!" The lush, lilting warped waterfall piano arpeggios of "Some Winters" subsequently feel disembodied, distorted, ethereal. Scenes from the other side. Slo-mo skipping through the pearly gates. Mering sings a lament of "Shame" as if walking barefoot across ice. Delicate, fragile, glacial. "Go on leave me for the last time." Oh the roses in the snow, "I wish we could still be friends...but we won't." Got chills, they're multiplying.

But here comes the sun and it's alright. Maybe. The appropriately titled "Summer" rolls like Joan Baez stretched out in the grass making daisy chains in July. "I can't wait for the time to be alone" it pines, tossing pebbles into the lake. "I will be forever yours / At least until this fall" it wisecracks endearingly, throwing some light between the crying Caspers. The tide turns again for album highlight numero uno with the hymnal "Requiem for Forgiveness". A prog sci-fi intro summons Mering in ceremonially towards the altar of Albinoni's "Adagio in G Minor". Yeah the Doors' one. What follows is achingly depressing but -- ain't it always the way? -- exquisitely beautiful. "Days in my life are numbered and so rare." A multi-layered choir of Merings swoon like resurrected souls beckoning from a mountain top monastery. Heavenly. Terrifying. Album apex part deux appears shortly after with the dead of night ballad "Bad Magic". "Make the best of death" it warns and you suspect partytime's over. Mering now sounds cracked, exhausted, weeping under starlight clutching one broken heart and a battered guitar. "The sky don't shine on me anymore" it sobs like a suicidal Sibylle Baier channelling "Love Hurts" whilst emptying her cabinet of Diazepam. "Pretty tragic on a runaway train!" Utterly riveting from first note to "car horn in the background" close. It'll properly fuck you up. Welcome to the Dead Zone.

After such haymaker hits to the heart, the last act of The Innocents feels slightly anaemic and pales a little comparatively. The wintry tombstones of "February Skies" seem like a backward step into safer, more familiar pathways despite a charming, harlequin-esque keyboard pirouette to the fade, "Fool or folly / Choose your doorway!" Similarly, "Ashes" tumbles through the castle halls with a jolly jaunt but musically haunts the memory less. Yet its lyrical ache remains compelling, "I'll throw your ashes away / Right now." The ambient instrumental "Montrose" perhaps signals a more intriguing, experimental way forward. The buzz of flickering fireflies, trailing orbs, white noise and underworld static. A fleeting but refreshingly unexpected diversion. We close the big door on The Innocents with the dreamy, beatific blue skies of "Bound to Earth". A contented smile spreads across its face, yet the words are characteristically troubled: "Chained in madness / In love and in pain." A bell rings, time's up and 3-2-1 you're back in the room.

There's a heartfelt, gentle sadness inside The Innocents that just makes you want to throw your arms around it. Mering's extraordinary voice alone is a spectacle of such supernatural sorcery it could lure you across the darkest, muddiest field. Even if you sometimes wish the Blood would perhaps wander a little wilder, a little weirder, The Innocents bleeds plenty of transcendental tunery, smart secrets and Weyes' words to unearth a rich reward for the curious. Kiss 2014 goodbye and let your soul and spirit fly into the mystic.

7
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Books

Cordelia Strube's 'Misconduct of the Heart' Palpitates with Dysfunction

Cordelia Strube's 11th novel, Misconduct of the Heart, depicts trauma survivors in a form that's compelling but difficult to digest.

Music

Reaching For the Vibe: Sonic Boom Fears for the Planet on 'All Things Being Equal'

Sonic Boom is Peter Kember, a veteran of 1980s indie space rockers Spacemen 3, as well as Spectrum, E.A.R., and a whole bunch of other fascinating stuff. On his first solo album in 30 years, he urges us all to take our foot off the gas pedal.

Film

Old British Films, Boring? Pshaw!

The passage of time tends to make old films more interesting, such as these seven films of the late '40s and '50s from British directors John Boulting, Carol Reed, David Lean, Anthony Kimmins, Charles Frend, Guy Hamilton, and Leslie Norman.

Music

Inventions' 'Continuous Portrait' Blurs the Grandiose and the Intimate

Explosions in the Sky and Eluvium side project, Inventions are best when they are navigating the distinction between modes in real-time on Continuous Portrait.

Music

Willie Jones Blends Country-Trap With Classic Banjo-Picking on "Trainwreck" (premiere)

Country artist Willie Jones' "Trainwreck" is an accessible summertime breakup tune that coolly meshes elements of the genre's past, present, and future.

Music

2011's 'A Different Compilation' and 2014 Album 'The Way' Are a Fitting Full Stop to Buzzcocks Past

In the conclusion of our survey of the post-reformation career of Buzzcocks, PopMatters looks at the final two discs of Cherry Red Records' comprehensive retrospective box-set.

Music

Elysia Crampton Creates an Unsettlingly Immersive Experience with ​'Ocorara 2010'

On Ocorara 2010, producer Elysia Crampton blends deeply meditative drones with "misreadings" of Latinx poets such as Jaime Saenz and Juan Roman Jimenez

Music

Indie Folk's Mt. Joy Believe That Love Will 'Rearrange Us'

Through vibrant imagery and inventive musicality, Rearrange Us showcases Americana band Mt. Joy's growth as individuals and musicians.

Music

"Without Us? There's No Music": An Interview With Raul Midón

Raul Midón discusses the fate of the art in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. "This is going to shake things up in ways that could be very positive. Especially for artists," he says.

Music

The Fall Go Transatlantic with 'Reformation! Post-TLC'

The Fall's Reformation! Post-TLC, originally released in 2007, teams Mark E. Smith with an almost all-American band, who he subsequently fired after a few months, leaving just one record and a few questions behind.

Film

Masaki Kobayashi's 'Kwaidan' Horror Films Are Horrifically Beautiful

The four haunting tales of Masaki Kobayashi's Kwaidan are human and relatable, as well as impressive at a formal and a technical level.

Film

The Top 10 Thought-Provoking Science Fiction Films

Serious science fiction often takes a backseat to the more pulpy, crowdpleasing genre entries. Here are 10 titles far better than any "dogfight in space" adventure.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.