Thursday, February 23, 2017

Listen/Watch: Laura Marling - "Next Time"

Perhaps the most exciting thing when English singer/songwriter Laura Marling returns with a new batch of songs is to see the bold new directions she goes in. No two Laura Marling albums sound the same and after offering her strongest impressions on the folk songwriter on Once I Was An Eagle her next album Short Movie saw her exploring new creative wells and experimenting more and more with her sound. Her upcoming sixth studio album Semper Femina will, if the first two singles "Soothing" and "Wild Fire" are anything to go off of, see Marling continuing her exploration of sounds and textures not normally associated with the folk realm. Produced with Blake Mills in Los Angeles, it's got a noticeably different feel than Marling's work with Ethan Johns. Unlike the sultry bass-led "Soothing", "Next Time" puts Marling's lyricism and guitar firmly in the driving seat while a building an arresting musical tapestry around her. The arrangements are pitch perfect: ebbing and flowing when needed; culminating in colorful bursts of impressionistic strings. While on previous Semper Femina cuts Marling's mostly engaged and remarked with external subjects, "Next Time" shifts Marling into observer mode while also regarding herself and her perceived role in the world.  "It feels like a long time since I was free/It seems like the right time to take that seriously" Marling rattles off right at the start before resolving to do/be better before each climactic string resurgence.

The video, directed by Marling herself, is a sparse setting to the track responding mostly through dance as time and the large room the dancer is in seems to shift and bend. The lights flicker and the dancer draws several lines and then a circle of salt which act as a center for her movement. You never really get an idea of what's happening and why. Is it a haunting? Is something supernatural to blame? Is the wiring just faulty? But the why isn't really important. Your hints are a blue sash previous featured in the "Soothing" video and another character glimpses briefly at the video's start and later at it's end. But while you never quite get the why the what is intriguing as are the dancer's movement which go from gentle and flowing to sharp and spastic during the moments the room's light flicker heavily. It almost recalls a possession of some sort as the dancer rushes to the closet and checks inside before returning to the window. She's waiting for someone and it's thrilling to see. The answer may be explained in the final of Marling's self-directed videos or it might not. Either way, it's a delightful vignette making the most of sound and vision, space and the body that's incredibly enjoyable.

Laura Marling's Semper Femina is out March 10 on her own More Alarming Records. Pre-order available now.

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