Samara Lubelski, ‘The Gilded Raid’
For all the rich sensations and complex realities that loud, distorted, oddball psychedelia has produced in recent years, sometimes it’s the quieter, ruminative side of the genre that is most compelling. Samara Lubelski’s The Gilded Raid hails from that quarter, lush, softly phased instrumentation, whispered vocals, and an understated drama and focus that engulfs the listener. By the album’s midpoint, the swirls and whispers sweep the listener to new surroundings, not “a world-away” or dreamlike, or even quite far from our own standpoint. This is immediacy, giving the listener a chance to retreat momentarily without losing themselves. The album is successful because it manages not to feel escapist, which lends the album’s general arc authority.
Lubelski employs a series of ascending and descending hooks, sometimes augmenting guitars with strings, woodwinds, vibes, and other keys or syntheses. Vocals are whispered, barely-there vocal throughout most of the album, and tied to the shimmering, rhythmic guitar. With pristine production, Lubelski gives each of these elements an organic feel, allowing them to breathe but still cohere as an album. Each of the songs stands on equal ground, and this production choice adds a structural link that, although the listener does not necessarily need to attend, but remains crucial for delivering a such a strong collection.
Lubelski reprises some forms through, again emphasizing the feeling that these songs are closely intertwined. Early songs are denser and driving, culminating in the dramatic drone of “Any Day Now,” which may constitute the most noticeable step away from gentler tones. The opening track “Rolling Out, Rolling Right” and late cut “Flicker, Flicker” hint at this droning feel with their heavily rhythmic delivery, but Lubelski makes the comprehensive feeling of the album more apparent by presenting the droning backdrop on “Any Day Now.” Ultimately, the shift between different secondary instruments and the introduction of some striking new elements (such as drone) lend significant motion to the album. When open arpeggios appear, as on “Soon Moon” or “Turning of the Season,” Lubelski allows the denser elements of the album to air out, providing this feeling of give-and-take throughout the album.
So often we write about aesthetics in a way that assumes the legitimacy of deconstruction or angular principles, basking in the potential to create objects that are both fully perceptible and fully disjointed or separated from our direct, immediate reality. This arguably comes at a cost perspective on consumption and artwork of scale, where beauty is expressed in terms of magnitude or ratio. We lose the idea as an analytic tool. Often the historical development of forms was concurrent with authoritarian, sexist, or exclusionary regimes that ultimately ensured that an aesthetics of magnitude or ratio was an aesthetics of totalitarianism or order. Yet, if we push beneath the surface of standard situated aesthetics, one can find new place for the powerful expressiveness of aesthetics as beauty, where beauty is reaffirmed to listeners in the form of pleasing music — Drawing Room uses the word “baroque.” It is in this sense that Lubelski’s work is quite radically well-consisted.