The opening track on The Gloom & The Glowing recalls a deep blue Saturday in July, the kind that’s spent doing nothing much at all apart from lounging in the back yard and tuning into the general malaise of the street. The twinkling notes of an ice-cream truck pass by, but one look at the album’s title is enough to dampen those expectant smiles. Something will cool them off, but it won’t be a Twister or a 99 Flake – it’s the cooler, slightly melancholic vibe of Nonconnah’s music, which sinks in deeply and somehow subdues the atmosphere.
Initial appearances can be deceiving, because Nonconnah’s new album seems to warp over time. The husband and wife duo were Lost Trail in a past life, but their music together has shifted into a new season. Much of that earlier sound is still intact: those hazy, spectral layers are added to dreamy harmonies that sleepwalk through thickets and brambles, walking in the soft autumn light and then going further beyond.
They conjure up a mixed bag of emotions – their music is first and foremost an emotional experience – with both positive and negative battling for overall control. Sadness seeps outwards, manifesting itself in the gritty rolling waves of distortion and the lighter, exceptionally beautiful harmonies. That rough part of the sound will always be there, but it is, to some extent, tamed and controlled. The abrasive distortion doesn’t drown out the fragile harmony, but it does add to the subtle unease, which is evidenced in ‘The Collapsing Bridge’. It’s as delicate and as heartbreaking as a tear sliding down a cheek, spilling from eyes that drown in rain.
The notes swirl in reverse on ‘Cassette Tones For Fall’, and its leaves create a swooning, flickering vision of something lingering just beyond the curtain. The drone is soft and tentative – first steps – gauzy in appearance and pretty in its new dress. Field recordings and vocal broadcasts are peppered throughout, appearing just beneath the surface.
‘Lives Past And Lives To Come’ is full of autumnal light. Its silky tones are draped over the music, and they fall, fall, fall, like a million leaves in slow-motion. Things have been lost and things have been damaged, but it’s still here. This whirling dance carries with it a message of undying romance and tentative hope for its coming years, and both offer protection against the gathering gloom and the growing malignancy of the darkness that stares in through the window.