PICK OF THE WEEK: Nadler expands alluring sonic DNA on shadowy, enrapturing ‘The Path of Clouds’

Photo by Nick Fancher

A lot of us can relate to the isolation and strangeness of being homebound the last year and a half, and for those of you who did not have that level of safety due to your jobs, I can’t imagine that type of anxiety. But being homebound is not always the dream that is sounds like as you can drive yourself mad if you don’t have something to break up the monotony or quell your own inconsistent mental state.

Marissa Nadler was one of the many who were basically tied to home in 2020, and in that time, she disappeared into murder, love, mysticism, and loss as well as taking on “Unsolved Mysteries,” a show that can send you down a wormhole forever. I should know. From that, she crafted some of the darkest, smoothest, numbing songs of her career. That’s saying something that an artist on her ninth record can reinvent her influences and further massage her sound in the alluring murk, but that’s just what she does on “The Path of Clouds.” This 11-track record is fully engaging and impossible to shake, and I’ve already spent a lot of time with these songs and uncovered new things every time. Nadler also worked with other artists including Emma Ruth Rundle (more on her next week), Amber Webber (Lightning Dust), harpist Mary Lattimore, Simon Raymonde (Cocteau Twins), Jesse Chandler (Midlake, Mercury Rev, and Nadler’s piano teacher), and Seth Manchester to fully flesh out the skeletons of her songs. The results are different from what Nadler has done before, yet still recognizably and refreshingly her.

“Bessie, Did You Make It?” opens the album, a folk retelling of the story of Bessie and Glen Hyde, two newlyweds who disappeared in 1928 after attempting to run the rapids from the Colorado River into the Grand Canyon. The track is unforgettable as Nadler delicately recounts the tale, calling, “Deep in the canyon you were swallowed.” It’s a noir dream that keeps the hope that Bessie made it out alive. The title track has a full-bodied sound, plotting darkly, going into sweeping tides and electric impulses. The playing is both syrupy and sunburnt, giving off vibes of ages long lost to time. “Couldn’t Have Done The Killing” is a great one, moving slowly through the fog of mystery. “Leave your weapon at the door, you don’t need them, because I’m not your killer anymore,” Nadler calls in a chorus that’ll stick in your head. Later, the leads buzz and the bass hammers away, bowing out in a wave of noise. “If I Could Breathe Underwater” starts with drums pacing, harps making the track feel heavenly, and Nadler noting, “I thought I saw you floating by.” The track sinks deep into ’70s-style folk, which pulls at nostalgia, gliding through elegance and heavy mood. “Elegy” glimmers and feels softer, moving into hushed areas. The singing is vulnerable as Nadler pleads, “Make me a memory,” and the playing splashes into the night.

“Well Sometimes You Just Can’t Stay” unites guitars and keys, delivering heavy mystery that makes your flesh chill. “Did you give up the ghost that night?” Nadler prods as psychedelic bliss turns into a lather that pulls you under. “From Vapor to Stardust” settles into acoustic and organs as the singing is more delicate, and angelic callbacks make the hair rise on your neck. The guitars well as the song bubbles, heading off into deep space. “Storm” feels sleepy on purpose, lulling you into your dreams as the psyche wall is built. “I thought I would disappear, go anywhere but here,” Nadler admits as organs swell, and an old country spirit sweeps the room. The vibes simmer in loneliness as Nadler’s heart bleeds, heading into “Turned Into Air” that starts with buzzing guitars and bass rumbling. The vocals infect, and again we’re deep into folk ghosts from the past who make us feel alive as they disappear into the woodwork, our souls in their possession. “And I Dream of Running” falls like a delicate, quiet snow, as guitars glimmer, and a nighttime vibe makes your heart race. The singing moves like a lost soul through the world, everyone unaware of its presence until the haunting begins. “Lemon Queen” closes the record with pedal steel and nakedly vulnerable singing, cutting you to the bone. “Seasons change the color, and the lemon queen, it grew taller and taller over you,” Nadler directs as a fantastical feel makes your mind surge, and the track ends at the wall of a mysterious mist.

No matter what Nadler does, she always finds new ways to be infectious and mysterious, which she does on her amazing ninth record “The Path of Clouds.” The stories of love, strangeness, murder, and disappearance are absolutely haunting, some of the best writing she’s ever done lyrically, and the music just cuts to the core. This album feels timeless, a collection of songs that might as well have been delivered by phantom from decades past but also sounds perfectly set in our tumultuous time where our pain and suffering see no end.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.marissanadler.com/

To buy the album, go here: https://www.sacredbonesrecords.com/collections/marissa-nadler

For more on the label, go here: https://www.sacredbonesrecords.com/

2 thoughts on “PICK OF THE WEEK: Nadler expands alluring sonic DNA on shadowy, enrapturing ‘The Path of Clouds’

  1. I’m really looking forward to this album, I hadn’t heard Marissa before the first single dropped for this and I was pretty blown away. I’m also REALLY looking forward to the new Emma Ruth Rundle, she is just amazing.

    • Oh wow, Marissa has an amazing back catalog. She also did a record with Steve Brodsky from Cave In called Droneflower that’s really good. Yeah, defintely go do a deep dive on her.

      The new Emma Ruth Rundle, without spoiling too much, is very different and quite devastating. We’ll have that one up next week. Thanks so much for reading!

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