[sic] Magazine

Ex:Re – S/T

So here it is. The inevitable break-up album by Elena Tonra of wintery indie/post-rock band Daughter. On 2016’s excellent Daughter record Not To Disappear, her relationship was clearly already on the rocks and now, on her debut solo album, she’s painfully alone. But so too is she defiant, for Ex:Re (pronounced “x-ray”, more on that later) is more about the slow process of moving on than it is interested in self-pity. A consciously one-sided study of her coming to accept the relationship being over, it’s nonetheless a beautiful cleansing that charts the ups and downs of that process, the LP itself standing as a concrete monument to finality.

A self-examination of sorts, Ex:Re is also well named as it literally means “regarding ex” and yet he barely features in the album’s lyrics. This is a record made by Tonra and is about her experience only. And, just like when with Daughter, her fragility is deceptive as she see-saws through emotional healing. As catharsis and realisation take hold, the guitars and percussion of 4AD house producer Fabian Prynn grow, climaxing with cinematic plugged-in statement “I Can’t Keep You”, which boldly stares down a future filled with possibility.

More customarily however, Ex:Re is a tearful and tender listen, barely-there laments leading to a sorrowful drizzle of understated instrumentation that stands in the background of Tonra’s hushed, vulnerable whisper. It’s often enough to stand the hairs up on the back of your neck. Daughter contributor Josephine Stephenson adds sombre cello to further weight the unhurried arrangements with melancholy, droning away on a track like “New York”, which skilfully conveys the numb listlessness of creeping time and the endless claustrophobic grey of inner-city living. Tackling the abject loneliness and impersonality of hotels, that same feeling also then spills into “The Dazzler”.

Reeling from the devastated to the devastating, Tonra struggles with the idea that she may actively seek destruction in order to artistically benefit from the experience. While psychoanalysts may have a field-day with that one, sporadic down-beats later give compositional back-bone alongside major piano chords to demonstrate her inner resolve, contributing too to the nauseous melody in “5AM”, which hits you in the gut in much the same way as this whole episode must have done her. Ex:Re consequently doesn’t always make for comfortable listening, but – really running you through the emotional mill – it’s never less than compelling.

Best track: “Where The Time Went”

~Ex:Re is out now digitally and will be released physically February 1st 2019 via 4AD.~