In her work as Eartheater, Alex Drewchin prizes transformation. Her songs fuse classical composition, futuristic effects, naturalistic folk, club music production, virtuosic guitar, and an operatic vocal range, but the actual influences feel even more elemental: a bug’s journey from chrysalis to butterfly on RIP Chrysalis, water’s ability to freeze solid or sizzle into steam on Trinity, the graceful orbit of a planet on her debut Metalepsis. For all the disparate sounds flying around in Eartheater’s music, her passionate voice and reflective songwriting reins them in with a gravitational power. On the lava-coated epic Phoenix: Flames Are Dew Upon My Skin, core tenets of Drewchin’s sound—her string arrangements, multi-octave voice and fragmented audio design—take mercurial new forms and reach previously unexplored heights.
Phoenix overflows with strings, both from Drewchin’s own guitar on songs like opener “Airborne Ashes” and the classical fingerpicking of “Bringing Me Back,” as well as arrangements she composed for others. These include a Spanish string ensemble, who bring sweeping scale to the tense “Metallic Taste Of Patience”, as well as violin-and-harp duo LEYA, who add a dreamy glimmer to “Below The Clavicle” and “Kiss Of The Phoenix.” Drewchin has been arranging strings since the earliest Eartheater demos, but Phoenix shows a composer of orchestral ambitions.
The human voice is the most important instrument on Phoenix and Drewchin finds countless ways to use hers. That includes everything from atmospheric whispers and digitally altered gasps to moments of operatic majesty. That’s not a simple matter of dynamics, either—she doesn’t just sing, she throws herself into each song, conveying enormous emotions and vivid imagery. It all clicks on the sweeping piano-led “Volcano” where Drewchin almost plays Angelo Badalamenti to her own Julee Cruise, a soaring torch song celebrating an “addiction to life” that’s the most beautifully evocative performance of her career. Eartheater is always transforming, but Phoenix finds a particular joy and inspiration in the act itself that feels worthy of its mythical namesake. She sounds both reborn and more herself than ever before.