Silence/Motion by Blackwater HolylightRelease date: October 22, 2021
Label: RidingEasy Records
Portland, Oregon psychedelic stoner rockers Blackwater Holylight immediately brought to the table an intriguing and absorbing twisty, woozy, shapeshifting sound capturing vulnerability to great effect on their self-titled debut album. While follow up The Veils of Winter added a thickening heaviness to their vulnerability in sound template. For album number three, there are once again nuanced changes, which sees a magnificent furthering expansion of ideas, as they tunnel even deeper and darker into the very essence of the Blackwater Holylight sound.
This is maintained in Silence/Motion despite or due to that this time around they recorded as a four piece (they do now have second guitarist Erika Osterhout who joined after the recording) and working with producer A.L.N of Mizmor and Hell for the first time. As Allison Faris (vocals/guitar/bass), Sarah McKenna (synths), Mikayla Mayhew (guitar/bass), Eliese Dorsay (drums) occupied Portland’s Odessa Studios for the making of Silence/Motion.
As the band name advocates, Blackwater Holylight are all about contrasts. And the light/heavy, beauty/darkness is still very much a hallmark of their sound. This time around, the inclusion of a few guest vocalists on a couple of songs rams this point home conclusively. The opening and excellent ‘Delusional’ sets that stall out magnificently with Thou’s Bryan Funck’s contrasting growl to Farris’ ethereal gliding vocals work tremendously as they sing “it feels like parasites swimming inside”. While McKenna’s atmospheric organ wafts delicately for a highly melodic but mournful tone. A play of this in the morning and this belongs in your head throughout the day – guaranteed.
They push the contrasting vocal styles idea out even more with the closing, and possibly the band’s greatest achievement yet, ‘Every Corner’, which doubles the guest vocalists – Mike Paparo (Inter Arma) and A.L.N – providing the gruff contrasts. It also contains the album’s best riff ‘n’ slow groove of the album. But, before we hear this, it has an opening dream-state melody while the latter stages of the song transcend into a deep-drilled up-tempo heavy before it all kind of merges into one. It’s epic! And exemplifies the band’s astonishing leap of ideas and craft.
Silence/Motion not only has the essence of vulnerability loom wider and larger than before, here the vulnerability sounds wounded, that there have been experiences of personal trauma (minus a lyrical sheet I found it impossible to catch every line due to being swept along by its emotional musical force, no matter how hard I tried). This is how the doomy and darker and the least immediate track ‘What the Hell’, as Faris sings “empty surrounds me”, and the harrowing in tone title track ‘Science/Motion’ indicate. The excellent ‘MDIII’ marks the band at their most tender and fragile, as Faris sings sounding like she is in the eye of an emotional storm will break the hardest of hearts. While ‘Around You’ channels Tanya Donnelly’s Belly for successfully capturing disorientating dreaminess.
Giving listening time to Blackwater Holylight is to enter and surrender into-their musical landscape. With the signs (I hope I’m wrong though) there has been great hurt and grief at the centre of the making of this album, makes this even more sobering and powerful. It feels very personal, but universal, as the amount of worry and grief the world as-a whole has been and is still going through. Without a doubt, Silence/Motion is their best yet.