Anthéne – Frayed (Home Normal, 2022)

What is the sound of unravelling? The noise that gets made as action undoes state, as circumstance alters mood, sways emotion, changes life.

Paradigm shifts of drama often feel nuclear, violent rendings that disturb and violate in instantaneous moments of calamity. They’re obvious and inescapable, but dissolution and decay, fraying: these are insidious process that elapse over time, their progress not demarcated by punctuations of intense change but rather microscopic iotas that evolve the whole one grain or one filament at a time.

The loose thread doesn’t happen overnight, it works its way out by weedling patiently, only noticed once it’s crossed over some unknown threshold of detectability. By which time of course it’s already too late (some might say).

Naturally Frayed is not calamitous, and is the same calm collectedness we’ve come to expected from Brad’s work over the years. Built on simple pining synths and delicate acoustics, Frayed partakes in a gentle journey across the fabric of self.

Bookends “Avenues” and latterly “Evergreen” are amongst the coldest and most distant pieces: the opener a vision of suspenseful enchantment as possibilities slowly dematerialise in its thinned and isolated strings reminiscent of Stars of the Lid’s “The Funeral”. The closer descends further into glossy darkness, stripping down into the inky core of its predecessor to leave us floating in a lonely sea, adrift and solvate.

The interior pieces have surprisingly more life in them yet, even emerging into light as they progress. Once buzzing “The Fields” has passed, with its sullen acoustic grace of a million wheat ears desiccating in late Summer light, the glowing sigh of “Distant Heart” is allowed to unspool. Trembling and crinkling its separation heaves like an accordion, space moving in hopeful contractions as it bridges souls. Its sibling “A Portrait” maintains that connection more demurely, some quietly framed instant ruminated upon, clinging to the solids of disintegrating closeness as it passes directly into the titular track which could have been cut straight from a Kyle Bobby Dunn record.

This is despooling: a slow journey across a descent with blissful ignorance, even dissonance, to the reality of the loss materialising, until the last shreds have all become unfixed and the possibility of repair and unity passes. No great shock, just gentle departure and ringing absence. This is the sound.