Acquainted With Night
Feb 23, 2021
If music has the ability to transport, Lael Neale’s Sub Pop debut takes the Carter Family Fold and plants it smack dab in Lana Del Rey’s modernist LA. The approach is best evidenced on single “Every Star Shivers In the Dark” and mirrors Neale’s own journey. She left her native Virginia to make her mark in California, but brought with her the Piedmont’s ancient folk-based roots along with the honeyed Bible Belted vocal tone of Tift Merritt or Laura Cantrell. It’s a head spinning mix when you consider that much of the album, recorded back home, is steeped in modal electronic Omnichord tones over which Neale weaves her Southern Gothic incantations.
The stark opener, “Blue Vein,” starts with a static buzz and guitar strum only to be overtaken by sustained church organ chords down the stretch. The song soars on a simple sepia toned construct. Working with producer Guy Blakeslee (The Entrance Band), the soundscapes here are stark but carried by Neale’s vocals. As with the myriad of influences, Neale often uses outmoded phrases (“many a mile,” “forever lonesome,” “long for you”) married up against drum machine beats and replicated resonant harpsichord tones. The juxtapositions power Acquainted With Night through to its end as “Some Sunny Day” strays from keeping on the brighter side of life.
Acquainted With Night is the type of album where there is not much need to dissect individual songs. It’s a complete work best taken in its entirety, with Neale’s ethos stamped all over it. Though she did have an earlier more directly folk based release, Acquainted With Night is not only a reinvention of herself, but the rare scrap of antiquity that becomes the newest thing under the sun. (www.laelneale.com)
Author rating: 8/10
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Average reader rating: 9/10