Skeleton Moon by Jodie Lowther

Release date: November 26, 2017
Label: Self-Released

As wintry, haunting and enigmatic as its title, Jodie Lowther’s third solo album is a beautifully understated, perfectly realised collection of hushed, spectrally reverberating and intimate soundscapes. Perhaps best known as half of the experimental pop/peculiar duo Quimper (and for her work as an artist/illustrator), Lowther’s solo work is far more introverted and shimmering. The album establishes its very distinct identity with its opening track, ‘Lushizhang’; minimalist almost to the point of being ambient noise, like most of the tracks that follow it is concise and just melodic enough to be called a song. The vocals are distant, barely heard, beautifully elusive in a cocoon of enveloping atmospheric sound.

The songs are mostly not ambient in the sense of being musical wallpaper, this album is involving, embracing almost, but with often the faintest undercurrent of unease beneath its shimmering ethereal surface. If one song captures the essence of the album it’s not so much the frankly ominous title track, but a song like the perfectly-titled ‘Half Remembered’; twinkly, glacial in its clarity yet somehow warm, with a mysteriously eerie edge to its magical pastoral atmosphere. Although the lyrics are mostly inaudible, the atmosphere is intensely pervasive and in the end Skeleton Moon has an almost conceptual feel, less a collection of songs to listen to than a bright, frosty moonlit night spent in a forest.

At times, as on the celestially airy ‘Samsara’ and the purely ambient ‘Reservation’, Skeleton Moon feels so pale and spectral as to almost be insubstantial, but in fact the relative shortness of the songs means that each piece makes its quiet impact before melting into the next. It’s also, despite this overarching atmosphere, a surprisingly varied album, from the unsettling, minimalist and ghostly piano/voice of ‘Moonfall’ to the painfully wistful feeling of the almost orchestral ‘Snow Gloam’. The album’s more sombre side is notable too, with the church-like ‘Coronach’ and funereally austere tones of ‘A Solemn Exchange’.

It’s hard to say whether, in the heart of summer Skeleton Moon will feel refreshingly clear and invigorating or just chillingly remote, but for now it’s a delicate, frosty delight; a beautiful evocation of the kind of wintry nights that you wouldn’t want to experience too often, but which definitely have their own, distinctive magic.

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