Clara Engel: Visitors are Allowed One Kiss
self released (2016)
On the vast information highways of Twitter I found this stunning self released album. Clara Engel is a musician and artist working out of Toronto, Canada. Visitors are Allowed One Kiss is her 8th independent release, and it bears the sound of someone with a singular vision and total control over her art.
Her Bandcamp page describes these songs as avant-blues which makes total sense on listening. Each track is built around a slow, simple, repeating guitar line. Imagine this guitar as the sun with a galaxy of atmospheric noises, subtle percussion, synths, and stringed ambience trapped in its gravitational pull. The combined instruments provide gentle support for Clara’s rich and textured voice. She sounds strong and unwavering, with a subtle huskiness that calls to mind a far more mysterious version of KD Lang.
Her songs are filled with Gothic vibes and haunting romance. Tales of swans, owls, mandrakes, shipwrecks and frost. They are both literary and fantastical, aching with melancholy but not depressed. Like reminiscing over dog-eared photos of old friends and lost loved ones, feeling blue but alive with cherished memories.
Clara has collaborated with some interesting folk on these songs, some of whom share similar aesthetics. Aiden Baker provides a cloud of warm bass drones on a few tracks, and it isn’t a stretch to hear the dreamy moods of his Nadja project in Visitors are Allowed One Kiss. The enigmatic Thor Harris plays xylophone and percussion here and there, which did not surprise me because while completely different sonically, Clara’s atmosphere and use of repetition is a distant relative of late-period Swans.
However, both those bands are mere markers when attempting to describe the unique world of Clara Engel. I highly recommend visiting her Bandcamp page and showing some support. I’ll be be revisiting soon to dive into her earlier recordings.