Bedroom Suck Records
Sydney-based Ela Stiles first caught my attention as part of Songs (great band, good luck googling them; annoying name) and she’s also contributed to Melbourne’s Bushwalking among other projects but here with her self-titled, debut solo album she presents just her voice. The whole album – two short sides of ethereal, looped, layered music that feels like it’s hovering/soaring – features just Stiles’ voice. You could reach for Bat For Lashes as a comparison, and before that Bjork’s voice-only album but the end result of this collection is more akin to Irish balladry, to choral music. Indeed on the short, wonderful, Untitled Drone, Stiles’ voice is layered again and again to create a full chorus of singers. The following Untitled Man has a folk-ish feel similar to Maggie Reilly or Linda Thompson.
This isn’t rock music.
The forty seconds of Anything is a more traditional a capella round; a shanty-like piece of storytelling, Stiles’ own backing vocals only creeping in at the very end. Legs Won’t Bend features her own layered voices as drones in the background, a recurring motif across the album. The shimmering Nothing Remains is just 22 seconds long – yet somehow it feels like the perfect mini symphony.
And then Drone Transitions, side two of the record, is 10 minutes of Stiles’ voice in drone, that’s the backdrop; the voices working as rhythm and melody, a bed for the lead vocal. Double-tracked voices are then draped across this, and you wouldn’t be wrong to hear Sinead O’Connor as yet another touchstone here.
This is a quite mesmerising soundtrack – the sort of album you sit down with, or walk around town with it playing through your phones; it transports it. It washes over you. It’s really quite something. Profound and beautiful. It’s a love-letter to the power of old-fashioned singing, of carrying the mood and melody of a song with just the voice.