‘Planet (i)’, the second album from Ella Williams, the musician behind Squirrel Flower, is a meandering record. It’s a record about disaster - the title refers to the second planet humanity will settle on and then most likely destroy - and in its DNA is catastrophe on a massive scale, hidden between murmured acoustic guitar and fluted vocals. Opener ‘I’ll Go Running’ develops from a sombre plucked guitar to an all-out exaltation, Ella declaring that she’ll “be newer than before,” wispy threads of harmony adding surety to the conviction that sometimes it can be better to start again from the ground up after weathering the storm. Centred on disaster, you’d be forgiven for thinking the record was written during the pandemic, but the concept was in germination long before. “To overcome my fear of disasters, I had to embody them, to stare them down,” she says. Embody them she does, see-sawing from the buzzing ‘Hurt A Fly’ to the pared-back ‘Iowa 146’ where you can hear every fretboard squeak and intake of breath as she finds reconciliation and a moment of repose amongst the devastation. For all the immediacy of these tracks, the core of others can get lost: on ‘Pass’, she perseveres through changing seasons and a tornado, yet ultimately a high-pitched, burbling synthesiser is the obstacle that proves too much, distracting from the atmosphere that’s been so carefully cultivated. As humanity continues to adjust to the now while staring down climate change, ‘Planet (i)’ is a vocalisation of the anxieties of an entire civilisation, the blow softened by satin guitar tones and roaming melodies.
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An accomplished first full-length.