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Rachel Zeffira – “The Deserters” Review

Rachel Zeffira
Rachel Zeffira

Recommended to me by the similar artists tab on Amazon (oh you have a lot to answer for cries my bank balance) comes the dreamy Rachel Zeffira. “The Deserters” is primarily an album about atmosphere and emotion over direct hooks. The hooks and melodies are there but its like the album takes place under a morning haze. Everything feels blurred and milky, like it’s slowly sloshing into itself.

Opener “The Deserters” showcases this well with rolling piano, pulsing tub beatings and sublime woodwind all in a mixing pool. It sounds ethereal but like it wants to break out into something more edgy – like it’s the swoop before the attack. “Here On In” then reveals a rockier side to Rachel as drums and electric guitar hide behind the mask of an intricate string arrangement. The interplay is gorgeous when the marimba’s give added warmth. It feels like a laid back psychedelia trance. “Letters From Tokyo (Sayonara)” they flits back to the more organic keyboard/piano/synth side with Rachel’s soft airy vocals really shining. It reminds me of a more haunting version of  Emmy Rossum. I love how there’s a real driving force to the track but it’s never pushed to the fore as it makes the track feel more dramatic than it ever lets on it is. “Front Door” is a sweet piano/vocal ballad with some warming subtle strings. It really is time to pause in the album and is also the most conventional track so far.

“Break The Spell” then gives us orchestral rock with a rocking drum beat, some background synths and a speedy string arrangement to push the track forward. I would describe the track as if you were taking flight in the lightest plane alive. “Silver City Days” then goes virtually classical with the clever used of arpeggios on the piano that sound like they are going at a maddening speed whilst the vocals are slowly delivered. It sounds like time was paused for three minutes. “Star” is a sumptuously warm track that is five minutes of slowly evolving melodies and lyrics. It’s spacious and milky with just the right amount of reverb and echo to make things feel otherworldly. “To Here Who Knows” is more synth-string based with a cute flute providing some great touches. The second half of the track repeats the same phrase over and over as it goes up the chords and expands – it’s a really touching moment in the album that certainly feels like an emotional peak.

“Waiting for Sylvia” turns to the harp and bells for breathy delivery before the organ heavy “Goodbye Devine” closes out the album with a complete lack of bass throughout most of the song. I’ve said it before but a lack of bass in a song always makes for a more emotive delivery if pulled off well and it is here.

Rachel Zeffira’s album is a strange beast. She’s so multi-instrumental that her rock side and her classical side go at odds with each other. She has managed to manage them both so well and created an album that’s like a space microcosm. I think you’ll need to hear samples to decide if its your thing or not but it’s frankly a beautiful work of art and I hope people “get” it.

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