For most of us, a musical life spent mixing with the great and good of US alt.rock and British trip-hop might be sufficient. But following a twenty year career of collaborations with Queens Of The Stone Age, Mark Lanegan and UNKLE, Wendy Rae Fowler now brings us her debut solo album: Warped. Now based in the UK, and collaborating with London’s finest (including GIHE fave Jemma Freeman), Fowler has tied together the strands of alternative, experimental rock, from both sides of the Atlantic – and her album has both the cinematic feel of US desert/post-rock and the gloomy clouds of its British cousin.
Opener ‘Hollow’ is an infusion of post-punk and post-rock, with its throbbing electronic motif, aching guitar and vocal distortion in the style of Fever Ray. It’s a style that appears later, on first single ‘Svengali’, although with a darker, fairytale opener, and a move into a trip-hop feel at its close.
‘Volcanic’ takes things in a more ethereal direction, still carrying the sense of Bjorkian electronic interference in its spacey heft. Elsewhere, there’s the legacy of other female performers – the goth folk of PJ Harvey’s Is This Desire? and To Bring You My Love on ‘Lying in the Sun’ and ‘Red Dust’; Nina Simone on the cover of ‘Plain Gold Ring’.
The latter encompasses an element of psych’s dark blues with its multi-percussion particularly reminiscent of GOAT. Second single ‘Run’ and ‘This is Not a Love Song’ take the listener to a twisted version of the old Wild West, with smatterings of twanging guitars and Rawhide cowboy backing vocalists.
Finally, the album concludes with the glistening shine of ‘Hollow Ground’ – a brooding epic instrumental whose electric lights twinkle through a bassy city smog, conjuring a tumble-twist in the mind’s eye of landscapes, both urban and natural. It’s a fitting conclusion to an album of light and shade, of space and density.
A powerful and moreish cocktail of cinematic sounds and bewitching vocals, Warped is a kind of neo-noir soundtrack to a movie that should, but doesn’t yet, exist. Rae Fowler’s sense of narrative is as strong as her musical nous, and her debut is a brilliant continuation of an already storied career.
Warped is out 30th March.