Published Jan 15, 2020With her psychedelic folk debut, Dublin songwriter Aoife Nessa Frances has crafted an album that sounds like it is floating. Caught in the liminal spaces between consciousness and sleep, as well as past and present, Frances's flowing folk-rock arrangements — thick with '60s nostalgia — sound comfortably ungrounded. The spirit of her peaceful songwriting is captured on "Here in the Dark," when she pours out the line, "My heart is so alive, often dreaming of better times."
The instrumentals throughout Land of No Junction are frequently serene, most notable for their lush keyboards, dripping-faucet drum machines, and the occasional spiralling string section. More than any of these flourishes, though, the ubiquitous quivering woodwinds — think of the opening moments of "Strawberry Fields Forever" — define the sound of the record, even acting as the sole instrument in the disarming interlude "A Long Dress." Dedicated to psychedelia, the instrumentals on tracks like "Less Is More" and "Libra" sound like Tame Impala, groggy from an afternoon nap.
Frances sings with depth and feeling throughout the album, with a voice reminiscent of Nico or Aldous Harding. The pensive conviction of her voice works well in relaying narratives like in the song "Blow Up," in which Frances tells the tale of a "blow-up woman" who is "tired of being human" and "torn from the inside." These lines fit the tone of this album, which feels worn-in and familiar, but also worn-out, faded.
Following the path set by throwback records like Bedouine's Bird Songs of a Killjoy, Frances's debut uses old sounds to capture a pleasant feeling. It captures the sense of being not here, and not there, but somewhere pleasantly ambiguous — a Land of No Junction, indeed. (Ba Da Bing!)