KERLI - Shadow Works
Delivering one of the most enigmatic and chillingly beautiful electronic-pop albums of 2019, KERLI releases her long awaited second studio project, ‘Shadow Works’, on the MrSuicideSheep label Seeking Blue.
The exquisite long player is a definitive, artistic resurgence from the Estonian singer/songwriter. Emerging from her own struggles against creative control, the album also showcases a steely willingness to dive into the darker sections of her inner self. Displaying at times brutal honesty from KERLI, ‘Shadow Works’ is in equal parts a thunderous, seductive dissection of base human nature and a soaring celebration of the other-wordly, ethereal magic that makes up the human spirit.
“Shadow works is an exploration of my own shadow,” KERLI explains further. “It’s a collection of music designed to connect the listener to their own disowned parts and to honor their hidden self. I explore the feelings of victimhood, codependence, lust, guilt and defeat. There are also frequencies that symbolize the eventual triumph over darkness. The vocal scapes that start, part and end the collection are designed to bring the listener into a meditative state so that Shadow Work can be performed.”
Intro track ‘The Opening Of The Way’ sets the tone for ‘Shadow Works’. KERLI’s time spent submerged in the dark forests of Eastern European almost come to life, as she leads us through a breathy, subtle composition of exquisitely layered vocals. Once inside her world, she weaves her narrative, rising and falling like a vengeful phoenix, raging not just against the object of her combined ire and desire but also her own impulses.
On ‘Mimicry’, soft, fluttering production belies the running themes of deception and mistrust, her “glorious lie”. ‘Everybody Bleeds The Same’ is a throbbing, sumptuous admission of shared guilt and regret regarding a fallen relationship. On Savages KERLI is held hostage by her own lust, rendered powerless by her Shadow Warrior, the music twisting and turning around her like some ever-tightening cord slowly choking the life out of her; on ‘One’, she glides quietly through a gentle soundscape of strumming guitars and low-key percussion. ‘Legends’ begins serenely enough, but KERLI soon calls on the power that be to incite her army to action, unleashing an onslaught of thundering bass elements that course through the single. The darkness only grows on ‘Where The Dark Things Are’, KERLI thoroughly in her element as her lilting voice thrills against growling, angry electronica that crawls and snarls like some latent monster lurking in the track’s lower regions.
If ‘Where The Dark Things Are’ is KERLI at her darkest on the album, on ‘Better’ she climbs back out into the light, the production still carrying tripping bass notes but the tone shifting towards hope and resilience. “When I went through the worst, I came out better,” she sings, her defiant energy roaring through towards the end of the single. Celebrating the power that comes with finally letting your past go, ‘Giving Up The Ghost’ is sheer musical beauty from KERLI, her voice climbing triumphantly over warm, sweeping chords and goosebump-inducing piano runs.
Of all the singles on ‘Shadow Works’, track ‘Tuletoits’ evokes KERLI’s heritage most. Haunting binaural throat-singing and thudding native drums evoke the wild spirits and gods of the frozen north, KERLI singing in Estonian for the only time on the album, casting an evocative, spine-chilling spell that takes the listener towards a place of serene calm. By the time outro single ‘Shadow Works’ opens itself up, there’s a heady bliss that overtakes; like a Wordsworthian ‘spot in time’ the anger and rage of KERLI’s process has finally dissipated, leaving room only for a cathartic sense of peace.
‘Shadow Works’ is, ultimately, an intimate journey where KERLI navigates her own experience, taking us by the hand and guiding us through every step of her emotional transition. As listeners, it is an immersion into artistic honesty that is a true privilege to enjoy.