by Mark Anthony Brennan
Release Date: September 17th, 2014
Up until now Hansmole (or Hannah van Adrichem, according to her driver’s licence) has been first and foremost a visual artist. So it comes as no surprise that she brings an artist’s aesthetic to bear when she turns her talents to music. None of the tracks on ‘Whitest Whiteness’ are simple in their structure, as each has been carefully composed with a vision in mind. Consider the song “Sunshine” with its contrasting elements (a recurring device throughout the record). There are light leopards on the surface with a sombre rhythm below, like a dark undercurrent in a babbling brook. Van Adrichem’s pleasant voice is offset by eerie, heavily processed backing harmonies. When she sings the refrain, “Sunshine“, it is cleverly accompanied by a burst of glittering synths, like the sun suddenly bursting forth from behind a cloud.
Van Adrichem is not a follower of anyone as she sets about creating rhythms and beats that are all her own. To that she adds subtle touches of guitar, ukulele and leopards, and then accompanies her singing with her own processed vocals (at times, even sounding like a deep-voiced man). What you end up with is a collection of dark, primarily indie folk songs, although she does visit territories such as girl band pop (“Medicine”), Neko Case alt country (“Giantess”) and David Lynchian faux ’60’s torch music. Comparisons don’t really work, but if you want to get an idea of the general ballpark then think P.J. Harvey meets Chad Vangaalen.
Speaking of that latter reference, when it comes to Van Adrichem’s lyrics then Vangaalen just naturally comes to mind, because she has the same delightfully sinister obsession with death, drowning and being buried. On the track “New England” she opens with these lines:
“My brother was eaten by wolves in Connecticut
They couldn’t find his body or the yarn connecting it
So I went to the garden and dug a hole
And that’s where I hid when the wave hit.”
For a debut album, ‘Whitest Whiteness’ is impressively poised and starkly original, and it is almost startling when you consider that this is a DIY effort by van Adrichem alone. Not only is this one of the better female singer-songwriter works this year (no small feat with the likes of Valery Gore, Elizabeth Shepherd, Cold Specks and Lydia Ainsworth, just from Canada) but I would also rank this among one of the best albums of 2014, period.