WARPAINT, ROUGH TRADE RECORDS
The girls of Los Angeles band Warpaint have been together for 10 years now – and this is quite some time considering that before now, only one full-length album bearing their name came into fruition. Since the premiere and tour cycle of The Fool in 2010, the foursome kept themselves relatively quiet in terms of a new offering, until the long-awaited advent of their latest, self-titled release. And in the wake of Warpaint, their long time spent was time spent well.
After retreating to the expansive desert of the Joshua Tree National Park, the band indulged in some early writing and recording sessions and before they knew it, a second collection of cuts began to gestate. For two years the band wrote, and later procured the efforts of renowned producers Flood (New Order, Depeche Mode, Nick Cave) as well as Nigel Godrich, noted for his work with Radiohead. Early interviews revealed that for the first time, each member of the four collaborated from the very beginning, writing the songs together from the album’s infancy.
What has formed as a result is an album diffusive in nature and imbued with spectral, ethereal sounds, coaxing synths and pulsating bass as punctuated by the unwavering and syncopated beats of the drums in a wash of cymbals. Every member and every instrument is present and developed, dissolving into each other to create a lush, ghostly sound.
In spite of the echoed and swelling nature of the tracks, the album doesn’t quite read like a dream. Often times, the songs take a dissonant turn, as heard in “Love Is to Die.” Primary vocalist, Emily Kokal, confesses-sings, “I’m not alive enough,” before the track paves itself toward the off-kilter and melodiously atonal. The track and the album as a whole reflect the very discordancy that painful emotional experiences give rise to. Kokal’s youthful and pristine croons explore these, many times absorbing harmonies well, otherwise confiding in breathy whispers.
Warpaint manages to solidify quite a gem in “Biggy.” Its minimalist guitar and steady beat provides an adept base for the vocals to softly soar, culminating into a wholly interesting track, one that will leave you returning. The album peaks in energy around the halfway mark, as expressed in “Disco//Very,” with dance-inducing rhythmics and dragging vocals that begin with a cheeky, “I’ve got a friend with a melody that will kill/And she’ll eat you alive,” and continuing with tempting chants.
That being said, there are times where the record lulls a little too deeply and the songs sound tired of themselves — the only downside of spending an extended amount of time on something in the name of meticulousness, or perhaps the California sun got to them a bit. However, the band has woven their abilities well enough that these moments are, by and large, rather fleeting.
Warpaint balances precariously in the subdued realm between gaze-y psychedelic and absonant post-punk. The album may not be life-changing but is nonetheless enchanting and provides a steady, pleasurable listen. The record manages to remain, for the most part, engaging and does not dissipate into its misty self, a difficult endeavour when considering the weightless nature of many of their chosen sounds, a fact attributed to the low-toned bass and the exemplary drumming. These sirens have nurtured a captivating and addicting record. It is at the same time intimate and otherworldly. It will quietly and expertly seduce – and make you feel real good as it does.
By Nivedita Iyer
Illustration by Yana Matusovski