Haunting, chilling, beautiful, creepy, powerful – the sort of buzzwords that come to mind when describing the latest offering from freak folk artist Kira McSpice. But to use only these accurate but basic adjectives would be an injustice to exactly what she has produced on her new five-track EP Aura.
For an artist to completely lay themselves bare and produce something so raw is a difficult process to undertake, but to do this less than a year after the release of her stunning debut album Prodrome showcases how prolific McSpice is, and how important it seemingly is for her to get these feelings out through her music.
On the surface, the dark ambient focus of Aura seems fairly simplistic compared to her past goth-folk works, each track offering very minimal musical background, usually just a dominant humming sound layered with her elegant vocals. Yet it is the songs’ repetitive nature which lends them a soothing and almost reassuring tone – these tracks are dark, haunting and often unsettling, but there’s something comforting about the way they just wash over you, allowing you to soak them in.
This is perhaps aided by McSpice’s brevity. Within this style of music there is a tendency to let a song linger and be drawn out, whether it’s to amplify a certain mood, instil a sense of dread or make the music more hypnotic through repetition, but the shortness of these songs and McSpice’s direct lyrics lend this EP a tenderness. It forces the listener to pay attention to what she is saying, and wholly absorb every subtle sound used throughout her music.
Even though there is a clear darkness to each track on Aura, there is also a sense of hope as the songs build and adopt an almost ethereal, transcendent atmosphere. From opener ‘Challenger Deep’, which is arguably the hardest track to listen to, right through to closing track ‘Hide’, McSpice takes the listener on a journey where a brighter undercurrent slowly begins to shine through. Even though the subjects of her lyrics seem personal and challenging, she paints them in such a way which can be uplifting.
It would almost be a cliché to call this EP beautiful, but there is something comforting in the enchanting, doomy siren songs which comprise the EP, making what is an intensely dark EP an incredibly fulfilling and cathartic listen nonetheless. With each playthrough more and more is revealed. In five short tracks McSpice is able to take the listener on an emotive journey which is unique to each participant, and this is what makes her such an intriguing artist.
Words: Tim Birkbeck