On the face of it Cali Blake is a music mogul’s dream incarnate, the kind of entity A&R’s and music execs search high and low for. Hailing from New Orleans, Cali Blake has pretty much got it all. She can write, sing, produce, play a multitude of instruments, and looks like she could appear on the cover of Cosmopolitan. She has something of the Lana Del Rey about her, they both look great and dabble in dream pop experimentalism, except her music is even darker and takes you to weird places.
On her new album, Cicadas In Sun, the songstress is a one woman band of eclectic misery and contemplation as she sings, adding her piano, guitar, harmonica and violin skills to good effect. The LP itself is honest in the way that each song feels like a representation of how Blake sees the world.
High is a dreary journey through Blake’s thoughts and feelings – hazy and unconnected – with a sense that she is in a state beyond a sober consciousness. Indeed the lyrics “When I exhale in that’s how it all begins” confirm so and it soon becomes clear this is part of her persona. The cough that preempts Francine displays the mood of a laid back artists who can perform off the cuff. Her galloping acoustic guitar string play is straddled by a laid back yet touching vocal performance.
For much of the album Blake is almost in a state of daydream, almost playing by numbers as she poetically lays down words to accompany purposely slack guitar play, like on Does God Play. Her voice has a deep guttural sultry tone that conveys deep emotional feeling. She displays this on tracks like Rewound, Island In My Mind and So Nearly Free (a very beautiful moment that slips under the radar), although the piano playing is nice but sometimes messy, as both vocal and instrument meander somewhat.
The record is almost entirely slow paced except for the odd moment where something resembling a beat appears in As It Was. There is some really interesting going on in the vocal harmonising and the track sounds like it could have appeared on an early Warpaint release.
Cicadas In Sun sounds as if it was recorded in one take. It’s like a live performance in a lounge or equally in someones living room after a few glasses of wine. To some it can be endearing and warm, to others, perhaps a more constructed and concise effort would have had more impact and thus worked better. But there is talent there and fans of the likes of Mazy Star, Jeff Buckley and Cat Power may have enough here to quench their desires. A previous track named Nostalgia, Youth should be heard on her Soundcloud – this has a progressive electronic alternative RnB vibe that would sound PHAT with a sick beat or would work best remixed – she should persevere with.
Cicadas In Sun is out 27th April 2016. Have a look at Cali Blake in previous video for Waterlines: