Vestals is Los Angeles artist Lisa McGee. Eight years have passed since her debut, Forever Falling Toward the Sky, was released via Root Strata, and in the time since, Lisa’s been active within the American underground music scene, appearing as one half of dream-drone duo Higuma and making vocal contributions to albums by Jefre Cantu Ledesma and Sarah Davachi.
Holy Origin is her sophomore record, and it’s been well worth the wait. With more of an emphasis on electronic processing, Holy Origin’s slow, smoke-filled rhythms and hypnotic arrangements are all about atmosphere. Experimentation is an essential aspect of her sound and her songcraft, and her dream-pop-inspired music knows no bounds. Synth-melodies grow like luminescent leaves, leaking neon and reverb wherever they roam. For Lisa, a dreamy sound is the bedrock, and she’s free to go into deeper territory on Holy Origins. Her darkly-exotic, hypnotic music has deep layers, like the dense foliage of a jungle.
Holy Origin’s synthesizers, pulsing electronics and tribal rhythms are meshed with a thoughtful, inquisitive vocal, and one which feels slightly removed from reality. The vocal could be coming from an AI, an Alexa or a Cortana, unaware of its simulated life, and these elements make up the backbone of the record, driving the music with a slow and steady momentum. Her vocals are kept in check, never crying out or having to reel things in, but there’s a quiet intensity to them, thoughtfully looking at her emotions to first diagnose and then rinse away any potential grime.
Her digital world is covered in reverb and delay, but it never once feels robotic or pre-programmed. Some of the strobing rhythms and sparkling melodies are flexible, open, and display a human touch, overriding sterile, digital cubes and emotionless pixels. Luminous and lush, McGee crafts a tropical and nocturnal world consisting of trance-like meditations and nebulous, interwoven melodies. Her vocal traces a web and connects all of the main elements, her lyrics jumping and then hanging onto the next note, flowing from one to the other with a sticky syllabic substance oozing out from the music, which lies at the border of sleep, every melody rendering a dream. Her vocals slip into the electronic fabric, ghosting over a digital foundation and acting as a coolant for the music’s system. Steam-emitting rhythms and syncopated synths are merged together, but Holy Origin’s hazy atmosphere is an unreal one; a dream, a fabrication. Like putting on a VR headset and transporting to another world, Holy Origin is a bending of reality, the occasional dead pixel or a second-long glitch in the matrix suggesting an illusory paradise.