Gordi reveals hidden depths on Reservoir

Gordi - ReservoirIf you grow up in the sparse landscape of rural Australia, in a village inhabited by no more than 3000 people, you have to come to terms with space. For Sophie Payten, writing songs under the name Gordi, it has come to define the foundations of her music. And while she relinquished such space when she moved to school and a dormitory shared between 27 girls, her music seems to have retained it. Perhaps it’s the relative backseat taken by the percussion – only a narrow spectrum of percussive sounds is used at any one time – or the heavy reliance on synth; Reservoir and the arrangements of the songs on it feel ever so expansive.

Clues to why this is the case can be found in how she describes her creative priorities:  “Lyrics to me are everything. Music is kind of what encases this story that you're trying to tell. The music is obviously what makes people fall in love with a song first, but what eventually speaks to people, whether they know it or not, is the actual words that are being said.”

The music is her cradle within which she lyricizes about the fragility and demise of human relationships, focusing on the platonic over the romantic, though the distinction is all too often blurred. Many of the songs on Reservoir have a more defeatist tone, like "The Bitter End": "We’ll just move on like the others who smell of yesterday, we’ll be catching the wind before nobody has lied." There are moments of defiance and optimism too, as on "Better than Then, Closer to Now": "I have my doubts, but I’ve nothing to gain from loss. Hold my head now and I’ll be luckier than I was."

For music that is merely a vessel for its words, it is gorgeously produced, with certain moments of sheer beauty; in particular, the luscious string section partway through "For Now", the flickering intro of "The Bitter End", and the pulsating outro of "All the Light". The album was recorded in a range of cities at both ends of the sparse and concentrated spectrum – Sidney/New York vs Reykjavik/Wisconsin. Given her presence in Justin Vernon’s neck of the woods (Wisconsin), coupled with her being signed to Jagjaguwar, the Bon Iver influence is unsurprising – the LP particularly rings of his third album 22, A Million. Indeed, one of my favourite tracks on the LP, "Here For Now", with its lilting acoustic guitar, features Vernon’s band mate and self-standing songsmith S. Carey. There are also unmistakeable notes of Imogen Heap, The Japanese Jouse and Laura Marling in the music. Producing a record with a variety of producers can often see a trade-off between consistency and range of sound and texture. Reservoir is no exception to this, but remains an excellent debut for the young Australian.

Release: 25th August 2017, Jagjaguwar Records

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