ALBUM REVIEW: Nova – Sylvaine

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Across her three studio albums to date, SYLVAINE has channelled an unearthly, ethereal sense throughout her music that explores emotions like trauma, loss, wistfulness and hope. With her fourth album, Nova, she delves once more into these waters and has produced her most personal, introspective album to date. It’s an album born of lockdown, but not about it; instead, it chronicles her own struggles with personal loss as well as the collective loss endured by the world during these past few years, seeking to provide some kind of solace. 

It opens with something she’s never done before; the title track is an entirely choral piece, arranged and created as a way of bringing the listener into her inner world through stripping back the music to the most personal instrument of all – just her voice. It’s not sung in any language at all; instead, it focuses entirely on creating an atmosphere of ethereal beauty and grace. It’s not an introductory track either, or an afterthought; the care and attention is palpable throughout the piece. In contrast, Mono No Aware draws on her screamed vocals much more heavily as it blends blackgaze and post-rock. 

SYLVAINE has never shied away from longer compositions, but with Nova, songs are never long for the sake of it. While Mono No Aware may need its near-ten-minute run time to fully explore all the paths it wishes to go down, Nowhere, Still Somewhere is more concise and regularly returns to a melodious motif that serves as its chorus. It’s a dream-like piece, one that’s deeply contemplative of life and its place within it. Fortrapt opens similarly, gazing inward with minimalist guitars and ethereal singing before once more diving into the swirling waters of blackened rasps atop swirling guitars. 

Ever atmospheric, I Close My Eyes So I Can See leans into the angelic qualities of SYLVAINE’s voice, offsetting its more extreme moments with these wistful passages. Even in the moments her screams come to the fore, it still feels intensely melodious from the soaring backing vocal arrangement. Everything Must Come To An End is the end to the album proper, though a bonus track in Dissolution does present itself. The layered synths, violin and cello of the former lead to an outro that’s stirring and beautiful in its emotional frailty, while the latter’s harsher end seems almost jarring. Had the album simply finished with Everything… then it would likely be better for it, as its composition and more subdued nature lend it to that role far more readily. 

The simplest way to describe Nova is immersive and often eclectic. The styles SYLVAINE spans throughout sometimes seem at odds, from choral arrangements to blackgaze and even to anthemic post-rock. It’s an introspective album throughout, reflecting on life and the transitory nature of all things. The artwork shows the multi-instrumentalist composer herself naked; an artistic and stark rendering of just how deeply personal this album is to her. While it bears striking stylistic similarities to ALCEST (unsurprising given her close collaboration with Neige), Nova is still very much its own album and SYLVAINE is very much Kathrine Shepard’s world, a way to process her own thoughts and emotions through captivating, immersive music that shares her innermost thoughts in a way that’s relatable and deeply comforting. 

Rating: 8/10

Nova - Sylvaine

Nova is set for release on March 4th via Season Of Mist.

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The post ALBUM REVIEW: Nova – Sylvaine appeared first on Distorted Sound Magazine.

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