Reverb and its vocal cousin, vibrato, are aural forms of witchcraft, imparting both haunt and gravitas to the songs they touch. Angel Olsen, once of Chicago, now of North Carolina, has long had a grain silo of a voice, pre-loaded with its own digital effects. On her fourth album she ramps up the drama, adding yet more reverb and throwing in lush orchestral arrangements.
In the wings, a stripped-down demo version of the same album awaits release. For now, it’s all feathers, catgut and gale-force nine winds, with Olsen singing of heartbreak, image-projection and even selfhood itself. Whose version of you is correct, she asks, in various ways. String sections are often the last refuge of the indie rock scoundrel seeking heft for thin songs. But here, on tunes like New Love Cassette or What It Is, the scything strings undercut the melodies with a purpose.
Even though these arrangements are not gratuitous, and All Mirrors is beautifully wrought, it never quite devastates. More weirdness would have helped, and less default goth-pop. Strangely, Olsen’s voice gets a bit lost in the mix, a little too ill-defined, atmospheric and understated to stand up to the operatics surrounding her.
4.New Love Cassette
6.What It Is