Gabriella Raelyn – Nephele – Act 1
This effort by L.A. singer/songwriter Gabriella Raelyn (born in Denver) isn’t exactly in the realm of Americana-Roots music but it has an interesting captivating concept that has captured the ears of quite a large audience. The music is an odyssey of soundscapes & emotion drawn from a fictitious character. The music isn’t so much pulling tendrils from Kate Bush, Julee Cruise, Lene Lovich, or Nina Hagen & other surreal storytellers. It’s engaging melodies & in some respects employing even samba/Bossa Nova type reinforcements on tracks like “Peace OR Love.”
It’s well sung, maybe a little heavy on the instrumentation which utilizes synths but it’s the voice of Gabriella that is the focus. The music is never overstated in an Emerson, Lake & Palmer style, Gary Numan mode, or Dick Hyman shenanigans (“Topless Dancers of Corfu”). These Raelyn tunes have a good tone, energy & an exercise in smart Euro-pop.
The 7-track produced by Gabriella — Nephele – Act 1 (Drops Oct 13–Independent) explores a troubled young woman who is torn between controlling her existence & the men who traverse through her world. She deals with incompleteness, dissatisfaction with life & dreams of controlling her fate. I’m surprised suicide wasn’t more widely explored. “Dance of the Damned,” is a challenging melody with Ms. Raelyn’s voice tracked in a haunting manner as if her subconscious is in a tug of war with her conscience & personality.
At best, songs like “the Music Man,” peel off the ear in a Depeche Mode manner. It’s borderline techno with Gabriella’s voice not treated in a special effects manner as many voices indeed are in that genre. Her sincerity comes through warmly despite being surrounded by the crispness of it all. This music isn’t so formulized as bands like Flock of Seagulls, Erasure & The Cure. Gabriella seems concerned with her voice being above the complexities of her arrangements.
“In the Dead of Night,” is probably the most memorable tune of the collection with its Jarboe (Swans) assets. Well arranged & showcased. The whole production has a flavoring of Tony Carey’s masterful Planet P project Pink World,” from years ago & a pinch of Dead Can Dance’s Lisa Gerrard.
Quite an undertaking making pop music from such a serious intense subject. Despite the inner conflict the music obviously explores it never comes on with a depressive groove. There is an overarching theme of romanticism but the dark femininity of it all is the main attraction.
A bit strange for some but this is a strong performance with exuberance & creativity.
Highlights – “Peace OR Love,” “Dance of the Damned,” “the Music Man” & “In the Dead of Night,”
Color image courtesy of Gabriella’s website. CD @ https://gabriellaraelyn.com/