Album of the Day: Eartheater, “Metalepsis”

The music of Alex Drewchin is microscopic and galactic all at once. Even the name she records under—Eartheater—conjures that notion. Her spellbinding 2015 debut album Metalepsis contains entire universes of sound while remaining as intimate as a DMT trip. Immaculate fingerpicked guitar, vast kosmische, noise rock, field recordings, medieval composition, eerie tape tricks, and densely surreal poetry all create threads that Drewchin either ties into impossible knots, or lets loose in disorienting sonic tangles. One of the early breakout releases for Chicago experimental label Hausu Mountain, Eartheater’s debut is now receiving a vinyl reissue that invites new reflection on her holistically expanding sound. For all its otherworldly aura and spacey mysticism, Metalepsis is grounded on a bedrock of raw talent, virtuosic guitar playing, and a superhuman, eight-octave voice.

Metalepsis opens like a Disney film played from a melting VHS tape, with the shimmering, delicately plucked strings of “MacroEV.”  It flows perfectly into “Homonyms,” one of the most bracing displays of Eartheater’s high, creaking singing style. It’s not just Drewchin’s vocal range that’s remarkable, but the character she brings to each verse, transforming herself with every mesmerizing line. On “Put A Head In A Head,” she sings in tense whispers, making the song feel like a particularly unsettling bedtime story, and culminating with a delirious slide-whistle synth solo. “Youniverse” offers a catchy flash of alt-rock before stretching out into a slow-motion sonic blur, then gradually refocusing to become a field recorded rap cypher. For all of the songs’ electro-acoustic twists, it’s Drewchin’s voice that is her most elastic instrument.

Metalepsis’s most abstract moments are also it’s most resonant in hindsight. Weightless, insular soundscapes connect the album’s brightest moments, making them feel like extraterrestrial encounters. “The Internet Is Handmade” is a dark drift of naturalistic occultism in the spirit of both Current 93 and the bad-trip soundscapes of Nurse With Wound. The violin-led “Sigil Life” blooms into the kind of groovy rhythmic number that pointed the way toward last year’s IRISIRI.

The all-encompassing wonder contained in Eartheater’s music is best captured in Metalepsis’s final two tracks. After following the sprawling trajectory of “Orbit” through over 10 minutes of gauzy, crumbling textures, we return to the ground with “Infinity,” a tender lullaby celebrating imagination and the infinite possibilities that exist beyond the stars. It’s the truest song Drewchin has ever written, a barrier between past and present, ancient and futuristic, inward and outward—all of the things that Metalepsis takes joy in smashing altogether. The view we’re left with at the end is a panorama of possibility—one Drewchin hasn’t stopped exploring since.

-Miles Bowe

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