An exploration of warped, dream-like atmosphere and taught, noise-ingrained electronics, Paper Dollhouse has evolved from the solo work of Astrud Steehouder into an expansive, cinematic project now involving visual / performance artist Nina Bosnic.
Recorded with a stronger focus on electronic processes and with a deeper, light-starved aesthetic, Aeonflower’s emboldened use of crushed-noise dynamics takes the London-based group’s debut A Box Painted Black (2011, Bird/Finders Keepers) frame into darker, murkier and more thrilling territory.
Aeonflower is the slow descent of a newly-discorporated spirit into a fogged, neon-lagoon, a drowned world still-lit. On this outing both artists’ vocals are expressive, forgoing complex lyrical concerns for minimal text invested with emotive power. If the first LP was a box of raw secrets with hints of obscured folk roots, Aeonflower is the endless rain of expression, experience and change. Nocturnal opener Oracle bleeds into Stand, the first of Steehouder’s haunted vocal takes, a minimal ballad augmented with a barren guitar line. Helios sees a drum-machine kick + ride cymbal pin down an ambient, enveloping vocal duet until Psyche obliterates it all with a harsh noise swell, a thrilling shock to the system. The swirling synths and emotion of Your Heart peak in the centerpiece Diane, a piece benefiting from Steehouder’s minimalist approach. Side 2 of the LP acts as a mini-suite, with Diamanda Galas-inspired vocal abstractions and walls of too coming down with stand-out ambient track Black Flowers. Dark and light interplay beautifully on album closer Siren, a turbulent if ambiguous build -up of harmony and noise. A cinematic portrayal of an internal hinterland, Aeonflower is a complete, encompassing soundworld.