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BOTW in Focus: Frankie Rose

Given the most cursory of listens to Frankie Rose‘s latest album, Herein Wild, it can be hard to imagine just where she’s drawing this sense of wildness and abandon from. After all, save for the Goliath of an opener that is ‘You For Me’ – with its fuzzy, towering guitars and jolty intro – or the jarring post-punk of ‘Street of Dreams’, it feels as though Herein Wild is Rose’s most reigned-in, sophisticated record to date. Instead, the sense of primitivism comes directly from the untamed expanses of Rose’s psyche: namely, her dreams.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: there’s nothing new about plundering one’s subconscious for inspiration. You may be right. I dare you to listen through an album by one of Rose’s former bands – particularly Dum Dum Girls or Vivian Girls – and count the references to dreams; for whatever reason, it’s a topic that’s appealed to countless bands that trade in a particular strain of jangly, guitar-led indie. Herein Wild is different, though.

Sure, it certainly shares a bloodline with its predecessor, 2012′s Interstellar, but where that record felt rooted in its cosmic allegiance, Herein Wild applies itself fully to exploring the untapped resource that is Rose’s mind. While its tracks may move and function in a similar manner to Interstellar‘s – play the former’s ‘Street of Dreams’ next to the latter’s ‘Night Swim’ and a common heritage is easily traceable – there’s a clarity here far greater than ever before. It’s a quality Rose described to us in a recent interview as a vividness to her dreams – often nightmares – that bordered on terrifying.

It’s this transparentness in Herein Wild‘s production that can often be the record’s most unnerving feature. Weightlessness, a topic that’s felt present both here and on Interstellar, gains a new sense of gravity – turn of phrase absolutely intended – on Herein Wild‘s ‘Cliffs as High’. Allowing Rose’s lonesome vocal to dominate the mix, hanging eerily in the ether above sequences of sustained strings, as she sings of how she can, “fall like a feather,” has a disorienting and profoundly impacting effect on the listener. It was a technique she deployed to a lesser extent on Interstellar, perhaps in trying to evoke the weightlessness of space and flight, on the ambient-rooted ‘Pair of Wings’.

Most of all, it’s the sense of vulnerability shining through in these scenarios – the lack of control we have in weightlessness, in our nightmares – that trudges up the sleeping, organic beauty of Herein Wild. It may well be Rose’s most crystalline release to date from a studio perspective, but it’s also her most personal, primitive and unchained. As Frankie wishes us goodbye in stark fashion on closer ‘Requiem’ accompanied only by an acoustic guitar and the odd Balkan horn, we’re offered a sense of resolution tantamount to awaking from a strangely lucid, extraterrestrial experience. It’s like peaking at the first solitary ray of sunlight sneaking through tightly drawn curtains. We’ve made it through a great, overgrown wilderness by the skin of our teeth but another night’s slumber lurks over the horizon, at the end of the day.

- Alex Cull

Herein Wild is available now on Fat Possum. You can buy it here on physical formats, or here on iTunes.

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