Dark, damp, reflective folk songstress Johanna Warren wowed me with Gemini I previously and Gemini II is very much a companion piece in terms mood, scope, style and execution. The usually acoustic and mysterious tracks have a surreal and tainted feel to them and continue to show Warren is a queen of her craft.
Possibly the most plugged track on the album opens it with “Hopelessness Has Done Nothing For Me” as swirling guitars and piano ring out a faintly dizzying melancholy that permeates the whole album. Warren’s voice is subtle and relaxed and when paired with the swirling deep around her, it’s almost like she’s calling out from the depth of her mind to shake herself and you the listener free. “Say You Do” is most urgent and eerie with its angelic backing coos over a layered vocal delivery. Johanna has a unique vocal trait that lets her switch notes almost like she’s synthesised, and so when she’s layered her voice to make her sound thicker, it also gives her a warm but synthetic tone that makes things a little creepy. It suits the mood perfectly. More gentle and dreamlike “Here To Tell”, has the forest faun feel to it with its wooden percussive beat and gentle woodwind. Not only can Johanna do spooky perfectly, she can do ethereal beautifully – even if there’s a bite in the tale.
“Cause or Effect” opens with endless chatter that breaks to white noise before a reflective and spacious guitar and vocal track unfurls as if to mark a moment of clarity. It’s a simple country riff that repeats over and over and all the other effects and instruments that come in makes me feel like Warren has literally paused time to give us a message. It marks the middle of the album which is more reserved, rootsy and clear in its intent. “inreverse” is a beautifully understated ballad of realisation, whereas “Boundaries” is folk at its waltzing finest with foreboding and fore-warning lyrics of disaster. “Everything is part of the while, so don’t let the black hole take control” croons Johanna and it harks back to that moment of questioning in cause or effect that you can mirror up in lots of the lyrics across both this album and Gemini I. Owning and exploring both albums really clicks into place as you’ll explore the themes across them both and find the songs often contain a view from various sides.
“Cleansed by Fire” is a cathartic drone track with long drawn out lyrics and thick bass notes cradling the guitars. It’s lamenting but moving on at the same time and allows the more playful and optimistic “Mine To Take” exist as the cute piano fills and uplifting chords feels like you’re pulling clear of the madness. The album closes with the epilogue of the journey “Was it Heaven?” which draws conclusion and question from many of the topics of love and self that’s discussed along the way. Interestingly, the swirling guitar and oppressive nature are still here, but instead of feeling overwhelming, now it’s part of the furniture and feels like a cog in a larger wheel. As a listener, for me personally, it’s as if we have journeyed and moved on to understand that darkness will always be part of the light and we have to balance both.
Johanna Warren’s Gemini II is a beautiful album. You don’t need to have heard Gemini I to enjoy it, but I recommend both as a twin set because they compliment each other so well. Johanna is superb at what she does and long may her mystical misery reign!
Recommended Track: Here To Tell