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
Books

In 'Wandering Dixie', Discovering the Jewish South Is Part of Discovering Self

Sue Eisenfeld's Wandering Dixie is not only a collection of dispatches from the lost Jewish South but also a journey of self-discovery.

Music

Bill Withers and the Curse of the Black Genius

"Lean on Me" singer-songwriter Bill Withers was the voice of morality in an industry without honor. It's amazing he lasted this long.

Film

Jeff Baena Explores the Intensity of Mental Illness in His Mystery, 'Horse Girl'

Co-writer and star Alison Brie's unreliable narrator in Jeff Baena's Horse Girl makes for a compelling story about spiraling into mental illness.

Music

Pokey LaFarge Hits 'Rock Bottom' on His Way Up

Americana's Pokey LaFarge performs music in front of an audience as a way of conquering his personal demons on Rock Bottom.

Music

Joni Mitchell's 'Shine' Is More Timely and Apt Than Ever

Joni Mitchell's 2007 eco-nightmare opus, Shine is more timely and apt than ever, and it's out on vinyl for the first time.

Music

'Live at Carnegie Hall' Captures Bill Withers at His Grittiest and Most Introspective

Bill Withers' Live at Carnegie Hall manages to feel both exceptionally funky and like a new level of grown-up pop music for its time.

Music

Dual Identities and the Iranian Diaspora: Sepehr Debuts 'Shaytoon'

Electronic producer Sepehr discusses his debut album releasing Friday, sparing no detail on life in the Iranian diaspora, the experiences of being raised by ABBA-loving Persian rug traders, and the illegal music stores that still litter modern Iran.

Television

From the Enterprise to the Discovery: The Decline and Fall of Utopian Technology and the Liberal Dream

The technology and liberalism of recent series such as Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard, and the latest Doctor Who series have more in common with Harry Potter's childish wand-waving than Gene Roddenberry's original techno-utopian dream.

Music

The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 2, The B-52's to Magazine

This week we are celebrating the best post-punk albums of all-time and today we have part two with the Cure, Mission of Burma, the B-52's and more.

Music

Emily Keener's "Boats" Examines Our Most Treasured Relationships (premiere)

Folk artist Emily Keener's "Boats" offers a warm look back on the road traveled so far—a heartening reflection for our troubled times.

Music

Paul Weller - "Earth Beat" (Singles Going Steady)

Paul Weller's singular modes as a soul man, guitar hero, and techno devotee converge into a blissful jam about hope for the earth on "Earth Beat".

Games

On Point and Click Adventure Games with Creator Joel Staaf Hästö

Point and click adventure games, says Kathy Rain and Whispers of a Machine creator Joel Staaf Hästö, hit a "sweet spot" between puzzles that exercise logical thinking and stories that stimulate emotions.

Music

The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 1, Gang of Four to the Birthday Party

If we must #quarantine, at least give us some post-punk. This week we are revisiting the best post-punk albums of all-time and we kick things off with Gang of Four, Public Image Ltd., Throbbing Gristle, and more.

Music

Alison Chesley Toils in Human and Musical Connectivity on Helen Money's 'Atomic'

Chicago-based cellist, Alison Chesley (a.k.a. Helen Money) creates an utterly riveting listen from beginning to end on Atomic.

Music

That Kid's 'Crush' Is a Glittering Crossroads for E-Boy Music

That Kid's Crush stands out for its immediacy as a collection of light-hearted party music, but the project struggles with facelessness.

Books

Percival Everett's ​​​'Telephone​​​' Offers a Timely Lesson

Telephone provides a case study of a family dynamic shaken by illness, what can be controlled, and what must be accepted.

Reviews

Dream Pop's Ellis Wants to be 'Born Again'

Ellis' unhappiness serves as armor to protect her from despair on Born Again. It's better to be dejected than psychotic.

Music

Counterbalance No. 10: 'Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols'

The Spirit of ’77 abounds as Sex Pistols round out the Top Ten on the Big List. Counterbalance take a cheap holiday in other people’s misery. Right. Now.

Film

'Thor: Ragnarok' Destroys and Discards the Thor Mythos

Taika Waititi's Thor: Ragnarok takes a refreshingly iconoclastic approach to Thor, throwing out the old, bringing in the new, and packaging the story in a colourful, gorgeously trashy aesthetic that perfectly captures the spirit of the comics.

Music

Alps 2 and Harry No Release Eclectic Single "Madness at Toni's Chip Shop in Wishaw" (premiere)

Alps 2 and Harry NoSong's "Madness at Toni's Chip Shop in Wishaw" is a dizzying mix of mangled 2-step rhythms and woozy tranquil electronics.

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.