Wellington-based Gothic darkgaze trio Womb’s new EP, ‘Holding a Flame’, is an extraordinary and consuming record that is one of the year’s best, if not 2021’s best.

Some songs leave you mystified. Others leave you breathless. Then there is the music of Pōneke’s Womb, whose artistry embraces listeners and then devours them. Their interpretation of Gothic darkgaze is intoxicating, haunting, and cathartic. They are, in other words, the brilliant experiment of Daughter, The xx, Slowdive, and The Cure, and Charlotte Forrester (vocals/guitar), Haz Forrester (synths/keys), and Georgette Brown (drums) prove they are worthy of such comparisons with their latest EP, Holding a Flame.

Released a month ago, the record is extraordinary . Opener, “Intro”, is a 37-second teaser of scattered instrumentation, essentially the band firing a warning shot. What follows is “Mercury”, which is an epic stunner. It is beautifully mournful and filled with several breathtaking moments. Through the sombre tone, Charlotte lushly asks, “How to move forward, how to reconcile?” For the next four-plus minutes, she, her twin brother Haz, and best friend Georgette take us on one of the most dazzling, sonic experiences. The song moves from dreamy to bone-jarringly vulnerable to devastating, reflecting the uncertainty that lingers in Charlotte’s mind.

The equally crushing “Love” follows. This five-and-a-half-minute brooding yet gorgeous masterpiece is a feast for the senses. The melodic pace, the tender execution of each element, and Charlotte’s whispery voice  stun and awe. “Break me, this body / Like I’m made to be broken”, Charlotte pleads to their oppressor as a shoegaze guitar weeps in the background. This is the only love they have come to know – one based on power, destruction, and enslavement. Calling this song powerful would be an immense understatement.

The title track closes the record with a more subdued and weeping tone. With Haz’s patient keys in command, Womb deliver one of the most brittle and grief-stricken love songs you’ll ever hear. Charlotte’s voice is full of memory, remorse, and regret.

“Your name upon my tongue
Because I’m still undone when you’re undone
I felt alive with you
I felt alive with you”

While Holding a Flame is melancholic and sobering, it will make you feel alive. It also will endure for years if not generations.

“Dust to Dust” video

Womb, however, did not stop with just releasing a great EP. Yesterday, they shared the music video for “Dust to Dust”, which they released in December 2020. The video shows the trio in and around Wellington, including the rugged south coast and in a parking lot in what appears to be Tory Street. But more importantly, Charlotte, Haz, and Georgette are surrounded by loved ones, as this striking tune notes the importance of patience in a friendship.

“Dust to dust and what’s done is done
I held you as the sun
Danced the night away with you
Until the sky broke through
Dust to dust and you can have your fun
I’m still biding back my time
No matter now, no matter now”

Holding a Flame and “Dust to Dust” are now on Flying Nun Records. Both are available on Bandcamp (EP and single).

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