Music

Marissa Nadler and Stephen Brodsky Join Forces on 'Droneflower'

Photo: Ebru Yildiz

Marissa Nadler and Stephen Brodsky find common ground in the shadows on the unpredictable Droneflower.

Droneflower
Marissa Nadler and Stephen Brodsky

Sacred Bones

26 April 2019

Singer and guitarist Marissa Nadler tends to stay in a sort of sonic shadow with a ghostly quality to her folk music. Thus far, this has been a beautiful place for her to linger, vaporous to the point of weightlessness, a sort of dreamy analogue of Chelsea Wolfe for the more acoustic scene. Singer and guitarist Stephen Brodsky, on the other hand, is best known for projects with a little more heft and noise - Old Man Gloom, Cave In, Mutoid Man, New Idea Society.

On Droneflower, their styles come together in a ten-track negotiation of soft smoke and gritty edge that tends toward the unpredictable. Nadler's airiness keeps her afloat in Brodsky's whirlpools of fuzz, and his tendency toward pleasing dissonance gives her a ground to push against as she rises upward. In common between them is an affinity for a darker palette, and that foundation is a solid basis for their musical experiments.

Those experiments begin with "Space Ghost I", an introductory track both minimal and cinematic, constructing an atmosphere that fills its empty spaces with Nadler's wafting voice and instrumental echoes - in this case, of drifting piano keys. We land from the ether solidly into the ominous bassline of "For the Sun". Here, Nadler stands on the brink of feverish howls, but never steps off the edge, and her performance is all the more intriguing for the power she shows in restraint.

"Watch the Time" sees gentle downward spirals of guitar take the foreground over some of Nadler's most ethereal vocal lines, and it makes for a warm bittersweetness. In the midst of indulgent melancholia, this is a much-needed break that allows its audience to fall with a cleansed aural palate into lush interlude "Space Ghost II", another piece ready for a hypothetical period horror film.

The first track the duo recorded together on the album is "Dead West", a song structured more like a typical Marissa Nadler ballad, but bejeweled with sharper moments of electric guitar - embellishments that reflect Brodsky's influence. A cover follows of Guns N' Roses' dramatic "Estranged". They slow it down, of course, and shift it from its original emotional hues of searing heartbreak to icier grief, creating a dirge that becomes more and more majestic over a mournful seven and a half minutes. Organ sounds contrast with fuzzy guitar grit, which contrasts with unplugged strumming and solemnly jingling percussion. Keeping it from being too weighty are layers of vocal harmonies that give the end of the song a burst of cool light to carry it through.

Afloat is where the album stays, on four more tracks that, for the most part, exist detached, in a melodic zero gravity. The album ends on a final cover, Morphine's "In Spite of Me", a perfect thematic encapsulation of the balance between yearning and realism that characterizes Nadler's work. Here, the fog that is so prevalent throughout Droneflower clears, and subtle brass (saxophone from Morphine member Dana Colley, no less) adds a touch of tempered hope to finish the work.

If Droneflower has a weakness, it is that it goes in many directions, and opens up so many doors that Brodsky and Nadler do not have time to investigate in a single release thoroughly. These are two artists who have found remarkable common ground not in spite of their stylistic differences, but because those differences are so serendipitously complementary. Droneflower not only leaves me wanting more but confident that there is much more to grow from Brodsky and Nadler's communal sonic garden.

8
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

Laura Nyro's "Save the Country" Calls Out from the Past

Laura Nyro, a witchy, queer, ethnic Russian Jew, died young, but her non-conformist anthem, "Save the Country", carries forth to these troubled times.

Books

Journalist Jonathan Cott's Interviews, Captured

With his wide-ranging interviews, Jonathan Cott explores "the indispensable and transformative powers of the imagination."

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Coronavirus and the Culture Wars

Infodemics, conspiracies -- fault lines beneath the Fractured States of America tremble in this time of global pandemic, amplify splinters, fractures, and fissures past and present.

Music

'Switched-On Seeker' Is an Imaginative Electronic Reimagining of Mikal Cronin's Latest LP

Listeners who prefer dense rock/pop timbres will no doubt prefer Mikal Cronin's 'Seeker'. However, 'Switched-On Seeker' will surely delight fans of smaller-scale electronic filters.

Music

IYEARA Heighten the Tension on Remix of Mark Lanegan's "Playing Nero" (premiere)

Britsh trio IYEARA offer the first taste of a forthcoming reworking of Mark Lanegan's Somebody's Knocking with a remix of "Playing Nero".

Music

Pottery Take Us Deep Into the Funky and Absurd on 'Welcome to Bobby's Motel'

With Welcome to Bobby's Motel, Pottery have crafted songs to cleanse your musical pallet and keep you firmly on the tips of your toes.

Music

Counterbalance 23: Bob Dylan - 'Blood on the Tracks'

Bob Dylan makes his third appearance on the Acclaimed Music list with his 1975 album, Blood on the Tracks. Counterbalance’s Eric Klinger and Jason Mendelsohn are planting their stories in the press.

Music

Luke Cissell Creates Dreamy, Electronic Soundscapes on the Eclectic 'Nightside'

Nightside, the new album from composer and multi-instrumentalist Luke Cissell, is largely synthetic and electronic but contains a great deal of warmth and melody.

Music

Bibio Discusses 'Sleep on the Wing' and Why His Dreams Are of the Countryside

"I think even if I lived in the heart of Tokyo, I'd still make music that reminds people of the countryside because it's where my dreams often take me," says Bibio (aka Stephen Wilkinson) of his music and his new rustic EP.

Reading Pandemics

Pandemic, Hope, Defiance, and Protest in 'Romeo and Juliet'

Shakespeare's well known romantic tale Romeo and Juliet, written during a pandemic, has a surprisingly hopeful message about defiance and protest.

Film

A Family Visit Turns to Guerrilla Warfare in 'The Truth'

Catherine Deneuve plays an imperious but fading actress who can't stop being cruel to the people around her in Hirokazu Koreeda's secrets- and betrayal-packed melodrama, The Truth.

Music

The Top 20 Punk Protest Songs for July 4th

As punk music history verifies, American citizenry are not all shiny, happy people. These 20 songs reflect the other side of patriotism -- free speech brandished by the brave and uncouth.

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.