What does Aphir sound like?
Aural hypnotic vocal ambience, this time with the art-pop removed.
The review of Aphir – The Halo Is Shapeless
Aphir creates music that largely fits into two categories. One side of her music veers into art-pop, and the other floats into an ambient aural soundscape. On her new album, ‘The Halo Is Shapeless’, we are firmly in the latter. This is an album that uses Becki Whitton’s voice the create almost every single sound. A choir of Becki’s if you will. She describes the album as “a change of state”. I agree.
The album opens with two of the three longest tracks of the album to set an iridescent drone of voices, expertly layered and softened into an audio brushstroke. On both ‘wait’ and ‘UyU’, the music and emotional tone feel sympathetic, safe and calming. Yet neither track intend to walk that path of safety. Instead, they push into vocal motifs that mix sadness, haunted, soothing and a darker undertone that hints at something slightly unsettling. In ‘UyU’, it’s the lilt of some vocal phrases that hint at harshness. With ‘burning ones + zero sums’, it is a deep bass hum that is atonal to the rest of the cyclic track. There is also a bleed of synths and vocals that give a dusty sheen to things too. It’s like a beautiful jewel with a trail of flame behind it and the speakers singe your ears at times.
Whilst most tracks have a cyclical hypnotic state to them, they are very fluid too. ‘La Maison-dieu’ uses a pulsating on/off volume damage effect to create an angel rave. The synths that underpin its throb are constantly being frequency filtered as if the fabric of the song is wrapping itself around. It is a very cool effect and reappears in a slower pulse with ‘viscosity angel’. Aphir says that the album is inspired by the angels from Neon Genesis Evangelion and I imagine the clash of high technology and religion make their biggest impression on the more overtly techie pieces.
Other tracks on the album are more like a haunted Enya and Julianna Barwick collaboration. Tracks like ‘lemniscate laurel’ have a lush vibrance to them that lifts you up. On the flipside ‘rosary’ and ‘dopamine crash’ are more introspective and lamenting, often weaving in an angel-turned-cursed vibe with the vocal transitions. Aphir’s voice is sublime throughout although a lot of the more diverse tracks happen earlier in the album. That said, the closer ‘a grassy road’ has such a beautiful melody, it’s a track I can and have listened to on repeat many times as it sounds so otherworldly, poignant and hopeful all at one.
This wordless vocal album is beautifully ambiguous and that’s what I really enjoy about it. I’ve listened to the same song multiple times and come away with totally different impressions. Sometimes a track feels uplifting and other times they sound like cautionary tales. To balance that so delicately is a gift and Aphir delivers it superbly with one of the more introspective and esoteric choral ambient albums you’ll hear this year.
Recommended track: a grassy road
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