Stepping sideways from her customary haunt in the Floating World, the latest album from Detroit’s Amanda Votta is effectively a reinvention of all past expectations. Secrets to the Sea has been out a few months now, a limited edition on the sensationally specialist Reverb Worship label, but its very nature demands its slow discovery - it’s not an album you want to rush into, and it’s not one that would allow you to, either.
If you had to draw a brief comparison, mid-period Dylan Carlson and Earth would probably suffice, but only in part. Rather, Secrets to the Sea is folk horror rewired through echo and electricity, as Votta calls upon the cream of the experimental folk/psych underground to make noises which… well, let’s just say they’re not normally all this loud.
Floating World collaborator Neddal Ayad, Grey Malkin (The Hare and the Moon), and Timothy Renner (Stone Breath, Mourning Cloak, etc) are her conspirators on a disc that delights in dissonance, distortion and volume; which creeps and murmurs when it’s in the mood; but which values mood and momentum more than melody.
Every moment is precious, and no two ears will agree on the highlights. Could be a song, could be a crash, could be a moment of silence poised between two extremes of ice and fire. But images cling regardless.
Vivaciously sibilant, and dark in every corner, the brief but so beautiful “I Am The Moon” suggests you imagine pagan whispers over a spaghetti western soundtrack; “Moonflowers” looks back to elements of the old 4AD catalog, but only once the Witchfinder General has also paid it a visit; and “The Shepherdess and the Witch” is the sound of guitars descending into the abyss while the ghost of a very early Low out-take tries to make itself heard above them.
But “This Is How They’ll Find You” is the peach in the pile, a lone vocal, an occasional guitar, a lullaby to scare yourself to sleep with. Because, behind them, things are building, creaking and clattering; disembodied voices are drawing closer, and now the closest comparison is to Nico’s The End, with Eno rampaging across the soundscape, and the sense that if one final broken chord should shatter, the entire thing will be overrun by demons.
In the event, that last barricade holds. For now. But if four past Floating World CDs left you thinking you knew what Votta was all about, Secrets to the Sea will leave you breathless, regardless. And if you didn’t know what to expect, and just wander in out of curiosity… bring a flashlight and a stick. You’ll probably be needing them both.
Hear it here.