Album: Old Man of the Woods – Votives review

by Craig Howieson

A myriad of musical ideas, beautifully married together, Votives is an album of rare experimentation and a comforting place to ponder the disorientation of life 

There are days – often many days – when life can feel like flickering fragments of frames we don’t recognise; as if we are holding a camera roll to the sun in an attempt to make out the smiling faces trapped within instead of being able to reach out and make a connection. When time and thoughts run through your hands like water, it can be a disorientating chamber to escape from. 

On Votives, the debut album from Seattle based, Old Man of the Woods, singer-songwriter Miranda Elliott uses ambient washes, lo-fi pop hooks and electronic oscillations to scratch at the dichotomy of lives defined by conflict: conflict of the self, conflict with those around us, and conflict with the wider world. There is a push and pull to Elliott’s words, at one point asking for help, ‘I’m okay, but could you help me up?’ (Hissing), the next feeling ‘Lighter on my own’ (Votives), showing a desire to forge forward unaided. Finding the balance between contentment and dependency is universal and courses through the veins of all relationships – even those we have with ourselves or with the natural world. Elliott touches upon the confusion felt in navigating all of these in her uniquely abstruse compositions. 

There are countless examples of musical elements within Votives that shouldn’t work, but do. The dance beats throbbing under laconic drones, the moments of melodic pop in the same vein as Lorde set against a minimalist lo-fi backdrop, or even the clash of trip-hop backing tracks with celestial, reverb smothered guitars. Whether this is the result of fortuitous experimentation or painstaking layering and composition, the end result is the same. Elliott has stumbled upon a rare sonic palette – one that both mystifies and centres the listener. 

Votives is a record for when life gets too heavy to hold – a welcome slice of disorientation where realism meets illusion. It is an album that soothes and shakes, and a strangely comforting place to be when trying to bring the straying tentacles of our lives into focus.

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