First and foremost, I must admit that this is a rather different kind of article for me and this website in general. Not only because it's my first article in English in more than a decade, neither the fact that it crosses a line I have established long ago of only writing about Brazilian music projects. It's different mainly because it is about an album that hit me close to home during a delicate time in my life, making this piece a deeply personal and affectionate one.
It took me almost three years to find out about Black Sea Dahu's debut album since its release, and that only happened thanks to the wonderful Léo Norbim (also a brilliantly sensitive singer and songwriter in his own right). Norbim's appreciation for the Swiss collective came in the form of precisely built comments about the level of craftsmanship and tenderness perceived in their work, leading to some of their songs becoming a recurring presence in my daily playlist. Recently, after a new round of listening sessions enabled by a downtime, I came to a new level of appreciation towards the staggering White Creatures, finding myself awestruck and compelled to write about it.
Originally released in 2018, this folk album that can be described as a shockingly powerful and articulate work about the intersection that exists between Love and Grief, as well as the chaotic myriad of unspoken feelings coming in tow after the end of a relationship. From the instrumental intro until its gut-wrenching conclusion, White Creatures constantly distinguishes itself among its peers because of an admirable balance between cohesive arrangements, a clear-cut aesthetic and a visceral approach towards subjects like loss, loneliness and longing.
Featuring eight excellent tracks, the record starts catching a breath with the aforesaid instrumental introduction only to storm out the listener's mind and heart with its thoughtful title track - whose first stanza declares everything you need to know about where things are going - followed by a sequence that shifts between moments of disquieting anguish (The Core), careful self-evaluation (Take Stock of What I Have), resentful skepticism (Pure) and resigned realisation (In Case I Fall for You, My Dear), culminating in a final moment that sums everything up in spectacular and thoroughly emotional fashion.
Permeated by a strong sense of introspection, White Creatures presents itself as an intense and intimate experience without resorting to be an assault on the senses. Each song makes the listener feel not only highly specific moods, but the complex nature of the feelings it presents (like self-doubt, resilience and counterintuitive affection) with competence and grace. The final result is a closely-knit and skillfully carried out album that employs its lean musicality and lyrical density to immerse the listener and leave a lingering impression long after it comes to an end.
Although I could spend a few more paragraphs discussing the musical prowess of those involved and the overall quality of the album, I feel obliged to talk about the stunning work of Janine Cathrein (the mastermind behind Black Sea Dahu) as a singer, songwriter and auteur: Filling each of her lyrics and performances with an immense amount of rawness and depth, as well as warmth and delicacy, Cathrein shows a towering authorial voice that comes from an acute level of intelligence and candor. Her hoarse tone and soulful delivery are central to characterize her work as nothing short of jaw-dropping, as heard on the album's closing and best track, the devastating Big Mouth.
One of the most heart-shattering farewell messages I ever came across in my whole life, Big Mouth develops as a deeply sorrowful lullaby that sums up every single emotion addressed in the previous tracks and culminates in a soul-baring confession. This particular moment brings the album full circle and wraps everything up with such beauty and bittersweetness that's hard to properly describe. It's a masterful piece of music, and Cathrein's way of singing, as if she's lost for words until bursting in the aforesaid confession, is the icing on the cake.
Brilliantly executed, profoundly touching and conceptually well-rounded, White Creatures fulfills its goals with elegance and distinctiveness, being not only one of the best calling cards for a music project I've seen over the last five years, but a truly affecting labor of love that resonated with me in more ways that I can tell. And because of that, I happily allow myself to break my own rule in face of such a special work. Mandatory recommendation.