Northern Californian based multi-instrumentalist Leila Abdul-Rauf releases her latest, Diminution this week, in follow-up to 2015’s Insomnia on Baltimore imprint Malignant Records. Slow and dreamy harmonic passages are scaped with foggy atmosphere throughout the title track. When voice is added on Life Leaving, a tranquil and velvety piece becomes awash in amber tonality. The guitar is so extremely subtle, just reclining and shaping the aural space. The air thrown by the music is also reflected in the haunting watercolor cover art by Matthew Jaffe. Some of the tracks end suddenly such as Causeway but others, such as Abjure float eerily into the majestic mist. In fact, this is one of those ambient works that grabs and takes hold like new pea tendrils up a stalk in Springtime. It’s one of those recordings that sinks in and wraps around you like an ethereal blanket quenching the slightest frost.
©Nathan A. Verill
This album is not as dark as her last (her third overall) however, it defines (and likely defies to an extent) greyness. These ears can most certainly appreciate the artificial sense of suspension, and this floats elegantly. With a steam train streaming past (field recording from Nathan A. Verrill and Leila Abdul-Rauf), bleary horns whining and sumptuous, stretched vocal treatments Wayward feels a bit introspective, impressionistic. It’s more like a running river than a song per se. If I am nit-picky, one of the few faults herein is that each of these eight tracks are distinct pieces rather than a ebb/flow into each other. Her dedication to legendary sound composer/artist Pauline Oliveros (1932-2016) is a beautiful drone in homage, and in (self) recognition of the few recognized women in the genre. Hindsight seems slightly out of place here, and the vocal reminds me of some early honeyed cooing you might find on say, a Eurythmics or Cocteau Twins record. The mood is blue and white, a tad jazzy and jangle, though it gets lost in the woods. In the end we are faced with the graceful wisp and craning horns of Light Rising which emulates its title nicely. The vocal, both sung and spoken, is woven magically into the levitating horns. Everything glows and passes into oblivion.