Album of the Week - Adrianne Lenker - Instrumentals
DC's tagline is "a space to discover new sounds" but you've likely heard of Adrianne Lenker by now. Indie music circles have heaped praise on her band, Big Thief, in recent years - a group with a prolific output and seemingly endless creativity. But Lenker also releases music independently. Her 2018 album, abysskiss, was stunning, and this past Friday she released her solo follow-up - well, two actually. The first album, songs, is vintage Lenker. The straight-to-tape recordings feel unfiltered and her singing glows emotion. These sessions were recorded in a one-room cabin in rural Massachusetts, and it feels like the listener is sitting right there beside her while she plays. But while songs feels up intensely up close, its companion, instrumentals, eases back, and in some ways the unhurried takes feel almost more candid and pure.
When recording songs, Lenker began and ended each day with extended sessions of guitar improvisation. Collaged together, this is the music making up instrumentals' 21-minute side A, and the first bit of side B, which eventually fades into chimes and birdsong. During that first jigsaw puzzle jam there is a bit of everything: tight fingerpicking, spare plucking, messing around with harmonics, even Lenker's voice whispering "I'm starting over" in between thoughts. You can picture her sitting crosslegged, playing sometimes with concentrated intention, and other times to unconsciously breathe through her instrument. About four-and-a-half minutes into the 16-minute side B, field recordings take over. We've now left the warm cabin to step outside for a moment, the ground crunching beneath our feet and ambient noise, both nature and human-made, washing over us. Perhaps Lenker wanted to pay tribute to the physical space in which she recorded her double LP, or maybe she just wanted to gift the listener a moment of peace. The two longform pieces on instrumentals do this. For an album's length of time, we are in the woods alongside Lenker, with nothing to think about but our immediate surroundings.