They/Live – Ablation (album review)

15 May

Grace Lightman’s ‘Silver Eater’ was THE debut record of 2019, a concept album about an alien trying to escape from the clutches of NASA. We’ve potentially found the debut album of 2020 and, remarkably, it shares some common themes with Grace’s record – please acquaint yourself with Whitney Mower aka They/Live. The press release describes They/Live as  a “synth wave alien” and the divine album cover artwork (and that for the early singles)  suggests our heroine is either heading for, or has just returned from, outer space (albeit looking rather fashionably fabulous while doing so). Indeed the name They/Live is inspired by a John Carpenter movie, which makes perfect sense as the record unfolds.

They Live

As with ‘Silver Eater’ there are references to being on the run – on album opener ‘Gravity’ the central character talks about “hiding their dreams in the canyon” in an attempt to conceal their identity. Could They/Live and Grace’s ‘Silver Eater’ be from the same alien nation? Did they arrive on earth together and alight from the same spacecraft? As we hit play on the album’s 2nd track ‘The Path’, we are certain they are related. A throbbing synth stab kicks in as They/Live cries “they will look for us when we’re gone, now rev the engine…we’re not turning back”.

Our introduction to They/Live came a couple of months ago when stumbling across album highlight ‘Foreigner’. It’s every bit as dreamy and devastating now as on first listen. It’s a slice of other worldly, sci-fi pop but with a tender yearning – is our alien showing her softer side? We’re reminded of the character of Isserley from Michel Faber’s novel ‘Under The Skin’ – humanised so brilliantly by Scarlett Johansson in the film adaption. Like Isserley, They/Live is indeed a foreigner on earth and seems confused by her mission and the unexpected feelings she experiences.

There are some 80s superstars who may have contributed to the creation of the They/Live sound. There’s an incredible versatility to They/Live’s voice – at times coming off so very much like a 2020 Kate Bush but at others there are shades of both Annie Lennox or even Donna Lewis. Did this Utah born musician grow up listening to such artists we wonder? Sonically there are even more British influences at play – Goldfrapp and Roisin Murphy at their most daring.

The album doesn’t dip in quality at any point and the seamless segue between the slower tracks ‘Dreamer’ and ‘Both Alive’ is quite stunning. ‘Ablation’ feels like a journey and it ends with ‘The Shimmering Sound’ – a track which sounds like nothing else on the album. It feels like a psychedelic tripped out version of a love theme running over the closing credits of a John Hughes movie.

From start to finish ‘Ablation’ is a record to put on late at night – but expect very vivid dreams if you drift into slumberland with this piped through your headphones. It feels the perfect soundtrack to lay in the back garden on a warm summer night and look into the night sky – pondering the endless possibilities.

A fine and complex pop record which will be sure to feature at the business end of the best of the year columns come December.

‘Ablation’ is available to stream/download on all usual platforms and is available on blue vinyl from the Born Losers label store






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