I was travelling with work the last few weeks for the first time in over two years, our trans-Atlantic in-person stuff having all been stopped as a result of the C Word. It’s a curious thing, travel for work; on the one hand it puts a complete pause on your life while away, and on the other it brings its own temporary existence, a brief mini-reality all of its own. It’s like a pocket universe or alternate dimension, this daughter-state that starts and ends with a plane ride.
And though it promises nothing in the way of change, one can’t help but be altered by this displacement, especially after the stagnation of the last couple of years. The default state, the background condition prior to departure, is/was one of flattening and melancholia, the return one of energisation and excitement, possibility.
Daughter runs slightly opposite this flow, with closing “Passage” (accounting half the record’s runtime) laying the condition of baseline sadness in its glittering, voided 20 minutes. Piano loops dominate its lonely space, the soft ebb of reverberated drones providing the only structure in this extentless shimmering realm, like cruising through the lightyears hoping to run into the next star to induce the quickening.
The other half (comprising six tracks) finds itself as an admixture between states, entertaining a delicate balance between curiously hopeful and politely sad. For instance, opener “Walk together” begins in hesitant piano, grounded but perhaps unhappy, before disintegrating into the ethereal ambience of Liz’s distal vocals and hazy airs. In a moment its atmosphere lifts to transport it to dreamy and sunlit heights; the power of presence and the new, the exchange of words.
Key to it is my favourite, “Restoration”, whose rarified guitar drones ripple out in suggestive waves of positivity, radiating a delicately hopeful light. Its softly insistent and almost formless loops demand little, expect nothing concrete to form, and yet suffuse us all the same. The environment just exuding this feeling of something for us to pick up on.
And whilst “Sunlight crying” embraces the Summer-starved light and the tide of positivity rising about us, and seminal “Daughter” moves in beautiful Virginia Astley pastoral ambience, there’s this nagging sense of worry about cyclicity, of return to the status quo. In “Revolving door”, ragged crunching footsteps drag onwards whilst tolling notes slip out, clicking the rotations down as we circle, worrying, back to the start, spiralling against the flow of goodness in resistive anxieties. Feeling like we’re not allowed to give ourselves permission to be happy, to want to be brighter again.
This is a sublime effort from Liz and Jefre, a cautionary tale of states of mind and the transitory nature of emotion, particularly of negative emotion, and the currents that redirect them. A captivating listen that almost makes the moments where it withdraws into itself tantalising and inviting, drawing us down into its lachrymose depths.