by Paddy Kinsella
Alexia Avina’s music is a sensation. It is heaven-sent bliss that could only come from the above
Its airy synths and angelic choir of layered voices permit you entry to another realm; a comatose state for your imagination to run riot. Like a spring on thirsty grass, it is regenerative. It calms anxieties, slows breathing and reduces heart rate. While ambient musicians like Grouper summon peace from the dark, Avina’s music is basked in eternal light.
The intention behind her last album, 2019’s All That I Can’t See – ‘An attempt to honour the magic that comes with living in the moment’ – fitted nicely with her meditative aesthetic. However, this, her third album, is somewhat of a sequel to her debut, Betting On An Island. Whereas that was her ‘break-up album’, Unearth is its aftermath when you stitch yourself back together and note what you’ve lost and gained. And that raw theme inspires Avina to reveal more of herself than ever before, occasionally, eschewing her unintelligible Elizabeth Fraser-like vocals to sing clearly and unflinchingly. ‘You can say what you want to / but that won’t make you listen,’ she sings insolently on the opening track.
This heightened vulnerability also results in a change in song structure. For a woman known for her otherworldly soundscapes, its notable that the album opens and closes with two what you might call traditional ‘songs’. Closer, Night Sky is driven by a propulsive guitar that builds like Tetris blocks – the drums in the distance forever threatening to boil over. The chorus is almost catchy, Avina’s cheeky ‘ooos’ inducing a smile, a carefree-ness.
These anomalies are sprinkled with enough ambience to knit them together neatly with the rest of the record. I Love Watching You Live and Synth Jam deserve individual mentions. The former is the record’s most affecting track – its beating human heart characterised by the tender, almost childlike vocals, while the latter, an instrumental collage, is technically perfect. The sounds enter at just the right moment, and they belong like a whistle at a football match; take them away and the whole thing unravels.
As a whole, Unearth serves as an inner sanctum. The first time I listened, the rain was pelting the window beside me, and it felt like the album – not the walls – was protecting me from the rain outside. Avina casts her spell and for nigh-on forty minutes, it does not break. According to the Oxford Dictionary, Unearth means ‘to find something by digging’. This is a treasure well worth cherishing.
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