Published Feb 20, 2019Looking beyond the four walls of her Berkeley apartment, on her wholly possessed sophomore release, Chrystia Cabral — aka Spellling — opens the door and lets the community that surrounds her augment the type of shadowy rituals that occupied 2017's Pantheon of Me.
On her Sacred Bones debut, the lo-fi meditative minimalism of Spellling's first release is rearticulated as just one of the possible foundations for the shadowy neo-soul the Oakland producer can inhabit, as Cabral calls on a coven of guest musicians to help her commune with an expansive array of wandering new visions and nightmares.
A press release explains that Cabral sought to embody the sounds of "Swarms, flocks, flies, angels, spaceships, flying saucers" on this record's compositions, and the result is a record that inhabits the spaces of displacement and disconnect Cabral made her own on Pantheon and swiftly departs, in dramatic sequences that fantastically pull away from those vignettes in bursts of energy, all the more effectual with contributions from guest violinist and saxophonist Divya Farias, guitarist Andrea Genevieve, and percussionists Jacob Richardson and Janak Preston providing some invigorating jolts.
Opening track "Red" anchors the record in the stripped-down loop-onomics Cabral explored on her debut, but Mazy Fly doesn't wait long before it breaks that tension and rides the release across a spiritual constellation. While "Hard to Please" sets everything spinning to a dizzying, sunken synth line, clubby scattered claps and looping vocal embellishments, a dazzling reprise brings the action up to ground level with a snappy drum treatment from Richardson that provides propulsion Cabral rides across the night sky; "Real Fun" ropes Genevieve into that dynamic to launch into metallic space opera; "After Life" floats on an alien Theremin-like quiver before Farias pours sultry saxophone all over it; and "Dirty Desert Dreams" gallops on fantastical weirdo synths and a shuffle to stake its flag in the unknown.
New voices and ideas fading in and out like ghosts, it's an ambitious second act that meaningfully departs from the proven formula that earned the project early buzz, all to invigorating effect. (Sacred Bones)