Album of the Day: R. Elizabeth, “Every And All We Voyage On”

Every And All We Voyage On connects two disparate traditions—on one side, there’s the experimental tape music tradition pioneered by the GRM and San Francisco Tape Music Center; on the other, the synth-pop of Paul McCartney’s II or Casino Shanghai. Aside from the first and last tracks, all the sounds on R. Elizabeth’s new album are made with a Casiotone MT-65, a reel-to-reel machine, and vocals—an odd, effective approach orchestration that manages to both disorient the listener and entice with pleasing melodic motifs. Every And All We Voyage On is fundamentally a pop record, and yet composer Rachael Finney eschews tradition by adding in atmospheric tape manipulation.

In a recent The Ransom Note article, Finney notes that “constant repetition perhaps disrupts a sense of progression,” a recurring theme on the album, as both keyboard melodies and tape loops dart in and out of songs. Both “Cut Piano” and “Piano Cut” come from the same recording, and are the least song-oriented tracks on the album. Finney plays piano, which is recorded on reel-to-reel, and then passed back and forth with another reel-to-reel machine, constantly shifting in timbre and pitch.

“An Image Is Different,” on the other hand, is almost pure pop, at least sonically—lyrically, the song is a self-help guide to absolution. “Go outside / There’s nothing left,” she cheers in the song’s latter half, making up for the absence of analog effects with surprising darkness. The album’s next song, “Back from Ten,” is another downer synth-pop nugget, though it does include those analog effects, a prime example of Finney’s consistent ability to enchant with a melody as she stuns with beguiling texture.

Jordan Reyes

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