Sanguinaria by Clara Engel

Release date: June 16, 2023
Label: Cruel Nature Records

For nearly 20 years, Toronto’s own Clara Engel (they/them) has been one of those artists with a visual and musical guidance that puts you in a trance, and a hypnotic state. Their music has been played on the BBC, CBC, and the Italian National Radio station. They have worked with artists such as Thor Harris, Armen Ra, Siavash Amini, and Aidan Baker. Engel’s latest album Sanguinaria takes you into this haunting passageway, this mysterious parallel universe of folk-like songs.

‘‘Deathless’ proceeds into the world of Comus’ 1971 debut First Utterance, with tribal percussion, cello, ghost-like vocals, and arrangements that recall Vashti Bunyan. ‘A Silver Thread’ envisions a crystal ball, revealing the dangers on what is to come, with a Beatles-esque texture that recalls ‘Dear Prudence’ and a gothic take of Pink Floyd’s ‘A Pillow of Winds’.

Elsewhere ‘Poisonous Fruit’ envisions a disturbing story, being told around a campfire, haunting campers for the rest of the summer, and being scarred for the rest of their lives. There are tragic consequences throughout Clara’s arrangements with themes of all the lies that this person has told to his loved-one, and the need to come clean at the end of the song. It combines another acid-folk group Trees and the song, ‘The Garden of Jane Delawney’.

Speaking of the Floyd, Clara walks into the spaghetti western towns of Italy with a Bo Hansson twist. Howling-slide guitars, tribal chant-like bass, and the sense of being the last person on Earth with ‘Personne’.

‘I Died Again’ sees Clara envisioning of a Russian Roulette game gone horribly wrong. You see the person having many headshot wounds, losing count, and bloodied like a madman. His friends, in a state of shock, want to replay the game once more and do it right. ‘Bridge Behind the Sun’ is the walk headed home.

The country-tinged textures, give Engel, a sense of relief from the earlier themes that were communicated to the listener. You see the sun coming over the horizon, as a new day begins. Because hopefully, tomorrow will be a better day to clear all of the pain and anguish this person went through.

While I’m very new to Engel’s music, this album will keep you up to date with repeated listens to see what you’re missing. And if you’re very new to their music, then Sanguinaria is a starting point to get you going.

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