Rachel Zeffira - The Deserters

Rachel Zeffira - The Deserters

It’s Zeffira’s ability as a composer that gives the album real class.

Rating:

Cat’s Eyes, the collaboration between The Horrors’ Faris Badwan and Canadian multi-instrumentalist and soprano Rachel Zeffira, provided one of the understated highlights of 2011 with their self-titled debut. The success of that debut has gone on to inform Zeffira’s own ‘The Deserters’.

‘The Deserters’ is an album rich in sepulchral darkness and understated gothic grandeur, rather more slight and ephemeral than Cat’s Eyes’ debut. Entirely written, composed and produced by Zeffira, save for one utterly gorgeous cover of My Bloody Valentine’s ‘To Here Knows When’ transposed to florid piano, it’ revels in cold and desolate portent. You can easily imagine much of what’s here soundtracking an art house film set in a wintry tundra.

The dominant sound is piano accompanied by wonderfully arranged strings and it’s Zeffira’s ability as a composer that gives the album real class. There are, however, two tracks that feature a slightly more full-blooded sound and these are among the highlights. ‘Here On In’ features TOY and is the only track to include guitars. It works as a kind of half-way meeting point between Zeffira’s opaque songwriting and TOY’s driving propulsion. Here they sound intriguingly sedated as the guitars swirl round in a blissful vortex. It’s extremely compelling stuff.

Melissa Rigby of S.C.U.M. adds drums to ‘Break The Spell’, the closest thing here to a straightforward pop song; it’s as light as the album gets – there’s an inherent darkness to the pastoral tinged folk sound that features prominently throughout. At times the record can be disconcertingly eerie, as shown by the mysterious lyrical references to an obscure unknown male character on ‘Front Door’ and the ominous line “You can try to hide but sadness comes in anyway” on the bewitching ‘Letters From Tokyo’.

What makes the songs featured here even more compelling is Zeffira’s perfectly poised vocal delivery. For a classically trained soprano singer she sounds remarkably restrained throughout, singing mainly in a ghostly whisper punctuated by fleeting falsetto cries.

‘The Deserters’ establishes Rachel Zeffira as a musician of startling ability in her own right. It is an album that demands close attention but offers rich rewards aplenty.