Friday 16 March 2018

Review: Unwoman – 'War Stories'

'War Stories'

Under the moniker of Unwoman, Erica Mulkey has crafted a fine selection of albums. With her cello as her primary instrument accompanied by her stunning voice her compositions often draw from chamber pop, dream pop and steampunk where modern synthesis and classical warmth create a heady mixture. Mulkey's seventh full-length album, 'War Stories' combines Mulkey's unique style and frames perhaps her most politically biting album yet.

Thematically, the album draws on the likes of Jane Eyre, The Princess Bride, and Jane Austen's Persuasion, and tackles issues such as toxic masculinity and the social gender constructions that it perpetuates. Fiercely feminine and powerfully feminist the lyrics cut through the hauntingly beautiful music.

Songs such as 'War Stories', 'Saviours', 'Bad Man', 'The Same Stream', 'Flies', 'Waxing Gibbous', and 'Breath Out' provide the album with a strong backbone of cello-led arrangements, augmented with subtle electronics and mechanical rhythms that are both, dreamy, whimsical, and yet when combined with the beautiful yet direct projection of the lyrics by Mulkey's voice, become powerful statements. The album has it's sentimental moments as well, with the likes of 'The Surrender' and 'We Love Longest' counterbalancing the rage of many of the other songs.

In terms of the album's production there is a minimalistic air of construction which adds a prevailing intimacy to each track. The cello with it's deep drones roots every track, while Mulkey's voice breaths life into them. The subtle electronics and rhythms add depth, and additional power when needed but are not overly relied on, instead the atmosphere generated by her primary tools.

'War Stories' is one of the strongest albums in the Unwoman catalogue so far. Musically beautiful and lyrically powerful it is a dynamic statement that provides a refreshing counterpoint to the male voice in alternative music. This isn't an exclusively feminist album, it is also a reflection of where society is in the 21st century, and issues that affect everyone.

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