What does Lisel sound like?
If autotune was taken into the experimental songwriter genre.
The review of Lisel – Patterns For Auto-Tune Voices and Delay
Many say the voice is the ultimate musical instrument and I totally agree. For some, manipulating it with technology is blasphemy, but autotune can create a unique mood when done tastefully and artistically. Lisel specialises in this style of music. The Californian artist has made several albums centred entirely around her voice with very few instruments to support her. This time she’s leaning fully into auto-tune and delay effects to create a vocal ambience and otherworldly tone.
It’s a unique album that will take a couple of listens to really attune to. Eliza Bragg, the artist known as Lisel, has a beautiful voice that sounds clean but powerful. There’s no hoarseness to her sound as it’s silky smooth. This means she is able to drag out tones and notes into single “ah’s” or “oohs” and have them ripple out, glitch or layer upon each other like a cloudy atmosphere. The opening ‘Liturgy’ is just simple vocal cues that are then pitch bent with autotune as if to announce an intention. After the opening piece, Lisel’s voice then becomes both the main foreground melody and the background hues. ‘One At A Time’ keeps adding more twists and turns to the vocal layers as the title is sung on repeat. It’s as robotic as it is ethereally human. ‘Wingspan’ instead places full lyrics into a soaring falsetto vocal that then creates lower octave reverbs of the melody that pulsate afterwards. Gentle synths and shaky clicks create a hazy oasis for this bed of pillowy vocals to lay on, creating a slice of heaven.
Elsewhere, patterns of echo delay warp and drift to create more rhythmic pieces. ‘Immature’ and ‘Blades of Grass’ mix snippets of vocal samples that are layered and pitch-shifted over warm thick syrupy bass synths and twitchy drum loops. They evoke similar feelings akin to Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith’s more recent work. Kaitlyn manipulates sound from one base sound to something completely unrecognisable and whilst Lisel doesn’t create the same chaos level as Kaitlyn, it is a similar tonality and idea. ‘Stalactite’ feels more like an angelic purge as beautiful choral arrangements descend into a damaged vocal filter of tape hiss and aggressive synths. ‘Plainsong’ plays with vocal patterns and plays them off like warning sirens. Each sample is an uprising note and normally that would cause alarm but as the samples are so soft, the song conveys a more luxurious alien planet vibe than a warning siren.
Elsewhere on the album, there are moments of crystalline beauty. ‘Polyphony For Voices’ is a sumptuous rich ambient piece. Voices are cooing but underneath a vista of bright and bold synth pads. ‘At The Fair’ is equally playful, sounding at times like a Sylvan Esso song without the drums before moving towards something more gothic folk in tone as bells ring out over vocal organs. ‘Rising Mist’ is a cinematic piece that evokes sci-fi drama and balances Phillip Glass and Lisa Gerrard. The closing track ‘Whirlpool’ focuses on quiet vocal sounds like tsks and whispers.
Give it a few listens to bed in and Lisel’s latest album will absolutely grow on you. Whilst it has a cohesive sound and almost all the sound comes from her own voice, Lisel takes off if different directions so you never get audibly tired. The autotune creates an uneasy as well as intrigue and opulence whilst the delays and reverbs create oceans and vistas of vast epicness. This is experimental music you can grapple with and deserves to be heard by many.
Recommended track: One At A Time
Support Higher Plain Music
Higher Plain Music is part of the Higher Plain Network – a one-man indie media project. If you like what I do, please consider supporting me via Patreon for as little as $1/£1 a month. In return, you’ll receive additional perks for supporting me, such as behind-the-scenes content and free downloads. You can also donate using PayPal. Sharing the website helps too or using the affiliate buy now links on reviews. I receive a few pence per Amazon sale. All your support will enable me to produce better content, more often. I’d love to make this a full-time media network and your support can make that happen. Thank you.