Tales from a liminal heart…
You would be forgiven for thinking that the genre of pop appears to have fallen out of favour in recent times. In an admittedly grim climate, music can seem to be more bleak – a result, perhaps, of reflecting the culture around it.
A consequence is that any music that aims for the polar opposite is likely to be thrown into sharp relief. That’s certainly the case with Elisabeth Elektra, who arrives to provide a much-needed injection of euphoric electropop care of debut album Mercurial.
This album marks the cumulation of an intriguing musical journey for the Glasgow-based musician. One that’s seen her collaborating previously with the likes of Ben Power (Fuck Buttons, Blanck Mass) Andrew Liles (Nurse With Wound) and John Fryer (This Mortal Coil). Along the way, she’s also provided support for the mighty Human League and indie ‘super-group’ Minor Victories.
In her bio, Elektra suggests that she’s a “believer in the power of transformation via art”. It’s certainly evident in the choice of album title as well as her colourful outfits, which utilise a lot of pastel tones and shades, giving off a snow queen/mermaid aesthetic.
Much of this striking visual look is thanks to a collaboration with Marina Fini, an American artist that Elektra linked up with via Instagram. Fini seems to have grasped the electronic musician’s vibe and reflected this in the striking imagery that Elektra deploys.
That use of colour reveals a magickal element to the material on Mercurial which also appears through the unusual lyrical narratives of some of the songs. Tracks such as ‘My Sisters’ and ‘Inanna’ play around with nods to occult themes, giving a lot of the material an engaging off-kilter appeal. At the same time, there’s recurrent themes of love and loss present on Mercurial“Bodies fracture and bodies burn”.
Describing the boisterous ‘My Sisters’, Elektra offers it as “a cabalistic anthem for witches, sex workers and marginalised women and femmes everywhere.” In action it’s one of Mercurial’s best compositions with a rallying call riding on sharp melodies and a dancepop sensibility. With evocative lyrics (“I am crying for my sisters/They have fallen from the edge of the world”) and a nice use of treated vocals, this number chugs along at a pace that suggests a super-charged Lykke Li.
There’s more reflective moments care of ‘My Armour’, which is all mood and shadow, giving the album a bit of breathing space.
But ‘Inanna’ drops the listener straight back into pure pop territory. Rustling up a banger inspired by the Sumerian goddess of love might seem an odd direction to move in, but this number has a kinetic energy that proves to be one of the album’s best tunes.
Elsewhere, there’s a more fractured quality to the icy pop on ‘Crystalline’. Here, plucked notes give the composition an earthy, grounded appeal. The curiously titled ‘Hypersthene’ sees Elektra dipping into lush electronica and ‘Scissors’ offers up some effective cosmic pop.
The final third of Mercurial takes the tempo back up again, particularly on the mesmerising ‘Hieroglyphic’. Although ‘Obsidian’ delivers an equally stunning widescreen slice of pop.
Mercurial offers magickal pop perfection via a strong debut from Elisabeth Elektra. If you like your tunes quirky, yet accessible then this release will deliver on all fronts.
Mercurial is out now via the Occult Babes label.