A.A. Williams’ debut album, ‘Forever Blue’, is a starkly enrapturing pageantry of Gothic post-rock and post-classical. It also announces the arrival of an artistic supernova ready to explode.
In January of 2019, A.A. Williams unveiled her eponymous, debut EP. Like many early-year releases, the extended-player flew under the radar when it came to year-end recognition, but it was one of the year’s most eye-opening records. A.A. Williams was colossally heavy yet stunning, and it offered a glimmer of her gripping art. Eighteen months later, the London-based singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and composer has unveiled a meticulously-crafted and unforgettable achievement with her debut album, Forever Blue.
With the deftness of a 20-year veteran musician, Williams masterfully balances bleakness with beauty, heaviness with levitating lightness, and harshness with haunting allure. Her music, however, is not the only aspect of her artistry that creates a trembling effect. Throughout the LP’s eight songs, Williams enchants with her tales of isolation, anxiety, suffering, and an awakening. Opener “All I Asked For (Was To End It All)” immediately reveals her multiple sides. The song sadly moans at first, as riveting strings and a forlorn piano wrap around Williams’ light vocals. As the track evolves into a moment of extravagant cinema, Williams beckons to eventually experience “the kiss of death” and, thus, be liberated from the pain that consumes her.
This harboring for meaning at the end of days is further articulated on the Nordic folklore-like “Glimmer”. As strings stir in the background, Williams and Cult Of Luna’s Fredrik Kihlberg wistfully sing:
“Slowly come and breathe with me
We’re like the wind and we’ll float until
Everything we touch is gone
We’ll glimmer ’til we faded out.”
This desire to be found and to be whole is echoed on the cathartic, post-rock opera, “Love and Pain”. The song’s gentle, engrossing opening belies the harrowing bleakness that lingers beneath Williams’ skin. As the strings intensify, Williams slowly opens her wounds and reveals the infection that spreads through her soul. Then the skies open, and darkness descends as the orchestration swells and Williams’ voice calmly intensifies. All she wanted to be was the light in another person’s world, but she is instead the incoming storm.
Williams’ crushing beauty is also displayed on Forever Blue‘s more sombre numbers. With the support of ex-Wild Beasts bassist Tom Fleming, Williams delivers a sobering, Radiohead-esque ballad on “Dirt”. Through the light instrumentation, she shares her endless struggle to find light through the darkness. The weeping orchestration of “I’m Fine”, meanwhile, provides the canvas to Williams’ endless search for purpose. She vulnerably sings:
“I’m so tired of explaining that I’m fine
But I’ll always try to find a place with you”.
Williams’ talents, though, are at their peak on the soaring escapades. The darkly titillating “Wait” takes desperation to near cataclysmic levels. Its soaring orchestration in the second half brilliantly mirrors Williams’ anguish over a love that has disappeared. The mournful “Fearless” reaches a different level of bone-jarring effect with the backing vocals of Cult Of Luna’s Johannes Persson. His voracious, guttural screams provide the demonic antagonist to Williams’ angelic light, but the two are the voices that reside inside her head.
It is on “Melt”, however, where Williams reaches her true apex. It is an experience from another dimension; a song for the ages. In the track’s enchanting first half, Williams patiently shares the pain she suffered at the hands of another. As the song builds towards its euphoric and breathtaking crescendo, the heroine has found strength within herself. With god-like power, Williams hollers:
“I belong to nothing at all
I belong to you
You just couldn’t let me be.”
Once Forever Blue comes to a close with its eight, unforgettable tracks, listeners will likely say aloud that they belong to A.A. Williams. That our world was nothing until this starkly devastating yet enrapturing pageantry of Gothic post-rock and post-classical arrived.
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