When I’m not fully immersed in satanic screams, and stoner throb, I can usually be found indulging in something, altogether more somber, and ambient, as I believe that life is all about the ying and the yang, and for every hard and fast moment, there needs to be a parallel of inner quiet, and peace.
For all the heavier acts I’ve reviewed, and been exposed to this year, I’ve equally been introduced to some completely spellbinding, otherworldly acts too, and none has really captured me like Clara Engel has. Dressed In Borrowed Light is a six-track masterclass in just how hypnotic even the simplest of constructs can be, when done right. This album is literally the embodiment of everything that I long for, and seldom catch, in such a complete way.
Principally, Dressed In Borrowed Light is the perfect entwinement of both Clara’s hypnotic vocal, and beautifully played guitar work, which effortlessly moves through the tracks, like a ship gliding through a calm sea. Considering that the tracks were constructed during a time of a global pandemic, they feel emotional, without being at all depressing. Clara’s voice rolls elegantly on the wind, its clear, considered, and absolutely other worldly.
On album opener, Yesterday We Lived Forever, I’m instantly drawn to an Agnes Obel vibe in style, it has an acoustic folk quality to it, simple and ambient, and with a sultry, dusky vocal, which is absolutely haunting. I also draw some comparison with the duo Lamb, but I think this is because of the Lou Rhodes air in the vocal delivery, more than because of the music. As the album progresses, track two, In A Bed Of Snow only solidifies the nature of the whole experience, and through its near seven minutes, it’s completely enchanting, it emotes solace, and is both somber and haunting again.
Pomegranate Seeds firmly seals the lid on just how completely incredible Clara is, both as a singer, and as a musician. Soft and ominous, this track really does define just how overwhelming Clara is as an artist. If you wanted one moment to experience her in full glory, this is that moment. If you do, keep an ear open for the vocal harmonies, they are simply divine.
Absolutely intoxicating, and full of soul, it feels endless, and I very much wish it was…
My absolute favourite track on this offering is Flame Tree Sings and let me tell you why. Even from the opening bars, the eeriness of the piece has me hooked. It feels somehow more complete as a track, and less stripped back, like the others are. It gives it an additional depth, which really pushes it forward for me.
Heart Of Rags changes things up a bit and adds a more eastern feel to the mix. As with every track on the album, it doesn’t sway too far from the path though, and the feelings of finality and completeness ring through here too. I’m particularly drawn to the line ‘heart of rags, doused in kerosene’, for as much as it is a deep, dark analogy, I’m sure many of you, just like me, have also felt that way at some point. That’s the beauty of Clara’s work, it comes from a place that we can all recognise, and that, especially for me, is what I’ve really clung on to ever since. As Silver Scythe closes the six tracker, it gently swaggers in, and I feel as if I could listen to Clara sing forever. Absolutely intoxicating, and full of soul, it feels endless, and I very much wish it was.
I know its pretty rare to see the word ‘beautiful’ used on the pages of a heavy music reviewing site, heaven knows, usually it wouldn’t be thrown about in any stoner, doom, or death metal context, but here, I think it most completely embodies the experience. ‘Beautiful’ is a word I would usually reserve for describing my children, or pretty much the entirety of Emma Ruth Rundle’s back catalogue, but I firmly believe its entirely warranted here too.
If you’re looking for something that will warm your soul, and leave you fulfilled in a way that a lot of the heavy music will miss the mark, then you would do far worse than checking out Clara Engel, I promise, you won’t be disappointed.
Scribed by: Lee Beamish