Daughter – If You Leave (4AD)
April 8, 2013 by Alex Zinovieff
If the previous EPs were like viewing misery through a keyhole then If You Leave has vitriolically thrown the door wide open. This is Daughters first album, and follows a number of EP’s released since Elena Tonra decided to recruit guitarist Igor Haefeli and drummer Remi Aguilella – creating the three-piece it is today. Although this inevitably changed the dynamic of the band this record really celebrates what is best about Daughter, and allows those elements, namely Tonra’s hauntingly beautiful voice, the space it needs.
It starts frostily, even before the first line – ‘Drifting apart like two sheets of ice’ is uttered. Daughter have constructed a sonic landscape equivalent to a crystalline icy scene. The song builds to a crescendo before dropping back to the familiar combination or precise and sensitive electric guitar with voice. It was only after I finished the song that I saw it was called Winter.
Smother follows, and introduces the theme of self-deprecation and personal criticism. It was the first single from the album – released in October 2012. ‘I’m a suffocator’ is repeated like a child writing lines for bad behavior. It climaxes with tribal and warlike drums and closes beautifully with a gently strummed acoustic guitar that delivers a swift change of melody and represents a significant understanding of composition. It also highlights the influence that drummer, Aguilella, has had in adding emphasis at precisely the right moment and never excessively.
The album is lyrically unapologetic and cathartic. There is a visual rawness to the words forcing the listener to feel and see suffering. In Still, the second single, released in January,we hear, with onomatopoeic aggression, about how ‘hate is spitting out each other mouths’.
Human jumps out as a song seemingly out of kilter with the more formulaic songs it neighbors. It has a rushing chorus without ever feeling out of control and a heavy piano plod in the end.
It was in Touch that I began to think about the production of the record. It feels free from the heavy hand of a mercenary producer. The songs are allowed to develop naturally and slowly and close with dignified patience. There are no blockbusting choruses and anthemic heights. It has an easiness to it that emits creative maturity and corporate seclusion.
One striking moment is in Amsterdam just before 1:30 where all of the instruments cut out and leave a solitary voice amid piercing silence. At this point it feels as though the sound has not only been sucked from the song, but also from your world. It is in this song that we hear the confession, “I’ve been thinking that I should see someone/Just to find out if I’m alright” – I couldn’t help but agree.
It closes with Shallows which takes dramatic tacks between ghostly drawn out verses and broken feeling choruses.
This is an album of profound beauty. It creates an atmosphere that runs throughout and takes the listener inside a finely crafted space – an environment in which the songs can comfortably languish. It is utterly disarming in its lack of compromise and candid resignation to heartbreak and pain – each song is a festering bruise. My only worry is the danger of Tonra ‘recovering’. Surely this fine balance couldn’t exist under any circumstance other than in the midst of trauma.