AH_ML weaves these 2 unique voices through lustrous tendrils of blown-out tones and drones, expanding on Menuck’s eponymous modular and analog synth-based work of recent years, now imbued with an additionally searing, soulful warmth and melodicism through Engle’s singing. “Darling The Dawn” is a spellbinding album of preternaturally genre-bending sonics and songwriting: a sort of electronic shoegaze suffused with freak-folk, kosmische, darkwave and post-industrial, flowing from ambient minimalism to pulsing maximalism, conjuring traditionals sung in the haze of earliest light accompanied by overdriven circuit boards powered with ungrounded wires.
Engle and Menuck see AH_ML in a folk lineage traced through the likes of Pentangle and Trees to White Magic and Amps For Christ. While there’s no discernable guitar or acoustic instrumentation on the album (warm distorted synths provide the palette, along with signal-processed violin from fellow-traveller Jessica Moss), off-kilter drone incantations like “A Sparrow’s Lift” and “A Workers’ Graveyard (Poor Eternal)” perhaps sit most overtly within these seams of the skewed-folk substratum. The dichotomic ritualism of Can is an adjacent signpost, where methodical longform soundscaping combines with a feeling of extemporized immediacy. The album’s tremendous 10-minute centerpieces “We Live On A Fucking Planet And Baby That’s The Sun” and the motorik-driven “The Sons And Daughters Of Poor Eternal” also make this influence explicit thanks in part to the resplendent drumming of guest Liam O’Neil (Suuns), who helps propel both tracks to their spiralling peaks. Above all it’s the singing and lyrics, in method and melodic delivery, that conjure certain freak-folk furrows.
Engle calls this “music inspired by ancestor music, sea shanties for seas we’ve never sailed” and the duo have indeed forged a collection on “Darling The Dawn” where vocals often feel strangely rooted in traditionals, while the instrumentation resonates out-of-time, in a liminal space at once glisteningly synthetic and oxidized in analog patina. As the album title suggests, sleepless anxiety/euphoria and a sense of somatic channeling is vital to these songs: “I mostly kept the first thought I had, like a cold read, I wanted the melodies to be immediate and to surprise me, not a laboured process; it’s about being a weather vane, guided by preconscious impulses” says Engle.
For Menuck, the record started “with an idea of making a long thing about ‘THE DAWN’, the different weights of its radiance, the way it kisses our dumb faces when we rise and leave the night behind, the heaviness of that light when you haven’t slept.” “Darling The Dawn” captures a wholly compelling collaboration between Engle and Menuck in an album of genuine thematic power, thrumming with alternately tender and serrated beauty as only their combined strengths and sensibilities could conjure.
1. A Sparrows’ Lift
2. We Live On A Fucking Planet And Baby That’s The Sun
3. Waiting For The Light To Quit
4. A Workers’ Graveyard (Poor Eternal)
5. The Sons And Daughters Of Poor Eternal
7. Lie Down In Roses Dear