The thirteenth Autumn’s Grey Solace is a return to form. After a few albums that eschewed words and flirted with post-rock, the new album (simply called XIII) is firmly in the ethereal shoegaze mold, with lyrics and recognizable song structures. As a result, singer Erin Welton’s high-pitched, almost classical vocal acrobatics take center stage. The otherworldly melodies she sings are more about the coloratura origami she shapes than straight forward narrative communication, but the songs are full of emotion. Elizabeth Fraser/Cocteau Twins are a referent but AGS has developed its own unique take on the fragile formula. XIII is a wistful, blissful album and a great introduction to their prolific almost 20 year career.
Sound samples: https://youtu.be/StvqgmTM5pM
The duo Autumn’s Grey Solace has been staggeringly prolific. Since their debut in 2000, they have gradually moved away from their gothic pop roots, creating ambient music with traditional rock instruments. Their eleventh album Eocene is a tapestry of echoey treated guitars, heartbeat-like rhythms and ghostly voices. Instrumentalist Scott Ferrell uses a variety of techniques in layering stringed sounds—sustained notes that sound like bells, chimed, and harps. Singer Erin Welton uses her voice like a lead instrument, and whatever lyrics she sings are tumbled into the epic wall of sound, crafting a kind of sonic palimpsest. While the 38 minute digital album works as a whole, like a song suite, there are still individual songs that standout. The lovely melodic “Deep Wild” could almost be a single, as could the dark, driving “Extinction,” which flirts with progressive metal. Too tranquil to be “just” shoe-gaze pop, too dark to be New Age, this atmospheric mini-album has the perfect balance of tension and delicacy, like a spiderweb resiliently holding its shape beneath an onslaught of rain.
Bandcamp Link: Autumn’s Grey Solace
Prolific “ethereal-wave” Florida band Autumn’s Grey Solace just independently released their 9th album—the digital only “Windumaera.” The short album is kind of a mirror/sister album to “Monajifyllen,” released in 2014. Where that previous album was becalmed and angelic, this one is over so slightly darker. Sunlit melodies will suddenly turn sinister and menacing, resulting in a more dramatic sound.
AGS has drifted away from clearly delineated lyrics and song structures into something much more vaporous and atmospheric. It’s drifting ambient music made by electric guitars. Multi-instrumentalist Scott Ferrell manipulates his guitar into waves of chimes and ripples. The orchestrated guitar parts sound like bells and harps. Erin Welton’s voice soars over these soundscapes in coloratura swoops and swirls. For the most part, the lyrics are unintelligible, and though random phrases in English drift up, they are submerged by the virtuosic vocal technique.
ref: Cocteau Twins, Cranes, ambient music
There’s a song on Autumn’s Grey Solace’s new digital mini-LP (or long EP) called “aelfsciene”, which means “fairy-bright’ in Anglo-Saxon (aka Old English). ‘Fairy bright’ is an apt description for these glittering compositions. Singer Erin Welton’s sweet airy soprano and complex, ethereal melodies are indeed, otherworldly. She’s drifted to a more glossolalia (speaking-in-tongues) style favored by Elizabeth Fraser and Lisa Gerrard; the lyrics themselves might as well be in Old English, since the song titles are all in that language. The music, created by Scott Ferrell, is built up of various guitar textures that form a kind of aural trompe l’oeil. Guitars mimic drones, sighs, pianos, cellos, and harps, held together with gentle rhythms. It’s ambient music using standard rock instrumentation. “Monajjfyllen” is the brighter companion piece to their earlier, and darker post rock album, “Eifelian.”
The song “Meremennen” by Autumn’s Grey Solace has no known lyrics. Phrases emerge every now and then, like flotsam and jetsam, on the oceanic currents of the music. But for the most part, it is a kind of semi-coherent glossolalia: flowing and dissolving and pierce notes over a delicate arpeggio’d guitar and subterranean bass-line. The title holds the clue to the content: meremennen is an old English word for a kind of water spirit. This track, with its siren vocalizations, is a homage to an elusive, mythic creature.