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Demarnia Lloyd – Set Upon a Curve

2002, Arclife Records

Oh how CD’s have changed the face of music! Where once a double-album ‘opus’ from the likes of Led Zeppelin barely scraped the 60-minute mark, we now expect our albums to be at least 45 minutes long, which would have seen quite unusual to the music fans that preceded the digital age. I say this because the latest pop gem from Demarnia Lloyd of Cloudboy fame that’s sitting on my desk.

At a mere 26:30 spread over 9 tracks, one would be forgiven for thinking the album lacks meat. But all vinyl addicts know that’s not always the case, and that the best records are the ones that leave you wanting more.

Lloyd recorded this startling collection of songs at the historic remote smith’s grain-store in rural Oamaru, southern New Zealand. Taking inspiration from the harsh environment and the effect that had on her dream patterns – Lloyd sculptured the album as both highly visual (Lloyd and Cloudboy’s live appearances are often full theatrical performances) as well as thoroughly melodic.

Making considerable advances since 2000’s ‘Trace’ EP, the album is a complexly woven platter of breathy vocals, intricate and delicate instrumentation. Lloyd quickly establishes a melloncollie mode with opening track ‘over again, pull me in’. The song still retains the key traits of her previous outing, and without any form of percussion, the song customarily floats along on a pulsing bed of organic synth sounds. What she has done though is refine her sound to incorporate the fine touches the Cloudboy album had in spades.

Whereas the original EP was stark and relied almost solely on Lloyd’s fine voice, the new album has an ethereal soundscape aspect that’s thoroughly alluring.
On ‘Too long away’ Lloyd experiments with short electronic beats propelling the song further, creating a humming, pulsing rhythm reminiscent of Radiohead‘s more recent albums. In fact all number of electronic beats, crackles and shuffling grooves flow in and out of Lloyd’s dreamy, breathy multi-layered vocal.

‘A crooked road’ makes subtle use of plucked violin, the upbeat ‘Vell guitar’ features mandolin from contributor Jeff T. Mitchell, and pretty much every track takes a different approach to sculpting soothing sounds.

Lloyd is as on form as ever vocally, this time incorporating a fair amount of over-dubbed complimenting vocals, all in her inimitable hushed, refrained vocal (almost a single pitch throughout the album). The effect is quite gorgeous, the vocal equivalent of my bloody valentine’s guitar-drones.

A thoroughly engrossing and complete album, and a marked improvement over Lloyd’s previous releases. And yes, it does indeed leave me wanting more – Lloyd’s style seems to be evolving at a substantial rate of knots these days. With the popularity of Cloudboy on the rise these days, we can only hope that their, and of course Demarnia her self’s charming brand of dream-pop finds itself a greater outside audience.

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