13 Jul Comparative Album Reviews: The Liminal States of Man Rei’s Cusp & Nailah Hunter’s Spells EP
Nailah Hunter; photograph by Robb Klassen
Man Rei – Cusp (Crash Symbols)
Woozy and phantasmagoric, Reiman’s songs evoke the feeling of a séance in a candlelit cabin, as filtered through eerie vocal loops and minimal backing tracks. Cusp‘s opening track, “Witchcraft & Stitchery,” describes her modus operandi — of weaving the atmosphere of a mystical fever dream using threads of whispered vocals and beatless instrumentation. “The Queer That is the Night” explores the transformative and uncanny power of nightfall over hazy and sighing instrumentation.
“The best part of the fever is the fever dream,” she sings on “Feverish” — and these lyrics are a fair summary of the mood of the record, which dwells in the hypnagogic headspace of a sweaty delirium. Cusp is a fitting title for a record that explores the in-between states of consciousness, reminiscent of half-remembered visions; Reiman is fascinated with the world of sleep and dreaming, and the ways in which waking life intrudes upon it.
Nailah Hunter – Spells EP (Leaving Records)
Meanwhile, Nailah Hunter’s six-track Spells EP opens with “Soil: Song from Silence,” featuring an enchanted harp, and immediately announces the album’s purpose to create a ritualistic and contemplative ambience that evokes ancient rites and mysteries. Later tracks like “Ruins” add jazzy synthesizer washes to combine primeval and modern aesthetics, while “White Flower, Dark Hill” uses psychedelic tremolo to bring a quiet tension to the reflective surface of the soundscape.
Hunter states a desire to create songs as unique places, and accomplishes this with a lush blend of synthesized and organic instrumentation. She draws inspiration from baroque-era choral compositions and fantasy movie soundtracks — and as a synesthete, Nailah Hunter sees colors in her mind when hearing specific chord voicings and designs her songs accordingly.