Lael Neale :: Acquainted With Night

Across Acquainted With Night, Lael Neale’s second record and first released via Sub-Pop, a faint fuzz fills all negative space. This subtle texture is a by-product, and signifier, of the four-track recorder used to capture the minimal palette of guitar, omnichord and drum samples that accompany Neale’s luminescent timbre. Like the crackling noise from vinyl as it rotates on a turntable, the utilization of analogue methods in making and enjoying music conjures an immediate sense of intimacy. Furthermore, from the offset, Acquainted With Night sounds like an album recorded long ago. An artifact hidden away, waiting to fall on the right ears. 

Released in February of this year, its untethering of time is created through the serene combination of Neale’s vocals and the celestial tones of Omnichord, which dominate the instrumentation. On “Sliding Doors & Warm Summer,” and “Let Me Live by the Side of the Road,” the temperament in her vocal delivery heralds Sibylle Baier and Molly Drake. While a Southern Gothic shadow is cast upon on song titles and stories like “How Far Is It to the Grave,” brought to life with the sepia-tinged arrangements. Musically, it’s introspective and, despite its Spring-time arrival, perfectly encapsulates the crispness of Fall.

Predominantly nocturnal in its sonic essence, the stark nature of the soundscapes commands the listener’s attention. It also heightens the impact of the considered application of each instrumental motif. The Omnichord, in particular, twinkles like a constellation of stars in a navy night sky on “White Wings,” and then permeates with a sinister air across “Every Star Shivers in the Dark”; heralding the immersive hauntology of Broadcast and Clinic. Much like the records from those artists, there’s a constant sense of solitude as the singer navigates the sometimes spooky terrain. 

Landingsix years after her debut, I’ll Be Your Man (a polished pop-folk offering), Acquainted With Night is not only a more lo-fi affair, it’s a space in which Lael Neale seems comfortable and assured in her artistry. Lyrically, the record is a celebration of simplicity and returning to basics. Written and recorded pre-pandemic in Los Angeles—she has since relocated to a remote and rural part of Virginia—Neale’s songwriting sometimes presents premonitions of how we came to savor human connections with grocery store workers, and shift focus to watch a garden grow. Acquainted With Night is a beautiful, otherworldly record. It facilitates a detachment from time and place, and reminds us of the restorative nature of simplicity.  | z hedderman

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