Whether we’re sitting down with a good book, flipping through our latest stack of comics, spraining our thumbs during all-night video game sessions, or doodling in a sketchbook, The Pure Mood loves to have a record spinning in the background of our lives. Every week, we’ll spotlight a new album that demands listening.
In one of my favourite moments in Dan Josefson’s novel THAT’S NOT A FEELING, Emilie, a woman who never quite aims high enough in life, starts to rise out of bed after spending the night with a boyfriend she thinks herself too good for. Her eyes bleary and her mind still in that early morning fog, she starts to remember that in Japanese folk lore, the ghosts didn’t have feet. She pauses and starts to wonder why she’s remembering that. That’s the kind of feeling you get listening to Clara Engel’s music. Obscure, slightly esoteric facts always seem to be hovering around the edges of your consciousness, and you’re sure, if you could just reach them, you’d figure some ultimate truth out. Clara Engel’s strong, hollow and apocalyptic voice comes out from a Negative Zone of conflicting, confused emotions, of people who are angry, restless, and always a little bit sad.
In ‘Married to the Bone’, the stand out track of her newest EP, Engel cries out ‘and my terrifying weakness/ doesn’t turn you on’, which seems to be the fear running through all of the songs on THE LOVEBIRD’S THROAT – that itching, inescapable belief that if we reveal our true selves to anyone, spill out our flawed, disgusting, petty little thoughts, we’ll all end up horribly alone. In a pretty sick twist on the doom-folk standard, Engel gets the cheeriest thoughts out of the way first. ‘Not Knowing’ begins with a defeated but hopeful fragile voice lost in a fog. “I’ll send you anything you need, nothing feels like home or feels right, but I’m learning” really is the ultimate lament of a fractured person trying to repair themselves for someone they believe deserves it – that’s the fulfilling, inspiring aspect of failure. That as hard and impossible as things constantly feel, the desire to get yourself in a different position becomes a continual ‘light at the end of the tunnel’. But by the end of the record, even this glimmer of hope has burnt out to reveal nothing but bleak darkness.
“Lovebirds mauled your hand when you reached into the cage, tell me, what have you learned?” the final track of the EP challenges in a spiritual sequel to the character intent on ‘learning’ and fixing themselves on the opening track. Engel’s soaring, ominous voice grows increasingly violent as mythological imagery weave themselves into one of the most vengeful and inspiring tracks on the four-song collection. The song contains everything I love about the record; not only is it painfully emotional and sincere, but it fulfills the ultimate promise of the apocalyptic-folk genre – this is songs to sing at the end. At the end of a relationship, at the end of a phase in your life, and yes, at the end of the world. The ringing echo-notes and gentle plucking of guitar strings create a mood that tells you death is coming, that makes you want to grab life by the throat, or to be able to sing “touch me, and dissolve my mind” and mean it.
Engel’s newest EP is required listening to any fan of gothic blues and/or apoc-folk, but the expansive, immersive mood will hook any fan of Canada’s amazing flock of singer-songwriter talents. You can download the EP in your preferred listening format here for only 5 American dollars (hey, the exchange rate ain’t bad right now, folks) or discover more about the Toronto-based performer here. Thanks as always for reading, and if you have any thoughts or suggestions, please e-mail us at thepuremood [at] gmail [dot] com, tweet us @thepuremood or leave a message in the comments!