[sic] Magazine

Tara Jane O’Neil – S/T

Apart from a side-long split with Eleh in 2015, the last we heard from Tara Jane O’Neil as a solo rather than contributing artist was her 2014 LP, Where Shine New Lights on the Kranky label. Seriously chill, and still a long way from her days in The Sonora Pine and longer still from her founding role in Rodan, it was another collection of barely-there folk and elemental drift, less of an album at times and more of a wispy daydream. Frequently putting the art back into being an artist, however, it was also an exploration of minimalist drones and ambience, mood music for the pastorally inclined.

O’Neil’s eponymous eight solo album features full-band backing and it’s one that exploits her past pedigree whilst simultaneously finding pastures new. Featuring too a number of unobtrusive guest singers, most notably Chris Cohen of Deerhoof and fellow singer-songwriter Joan Shelley, there’s consequently less room to experiment. The windblown ghost of pop music is the result – perhaps O’Neil’s most full-frontal set for a decade – verdant neo-folk taken out to the prairie to lay back and simply watch the clouds roll by. “Blow” croaks accordingly like the desert’s own high and lonesome dawn chorus, horizontal percussive shuffles and reverbed keys developing prettily here, as elsewhere, into a type of countrified slowcore.

Scraped stings and mournful mid-distance horns add atmosphere to the template, O’Neil’s hushed vocal becoming more direct on the stand-out “Sand” in support of a sticky drop to heavily plucked guitar. Flutters of piano, acoustic strumming and pedal steel evoke rose-tinted thoughts of Mazzy Star on “Kelley” while multi-tracked harmonies lend “Purple” a light psychedelic edge as it meanders blissfully. The only real complaint is that a few too many of these sleepy lullabies pass a shade too imperceptibly to properly register. No-one remembers all their dreams however, the rich tapestry of the subconscious intended to be savoured more fully at the time rather than in retrospect, O’Neil’s airy S/T tessellating with the notion completely and exactly.

Best track: “Sand”

~Tara Jane O’Neil is released April 21st 2017 via Gnomonsong.~