Boomkat Product Review:
Having conquered the deconstructed club realm with releases for Halcyon Veil, Danse Noire and Infinite Machine, Abyss X lets her voice loose completely on 'Freedom Doll', channeling erotic tension and Minoan mythology into densely theatrical, carnivalesque alt-pop gear that to us sounds like Kate Bush, Diamanda Galas, Tori Amos, or early, gothy Cocteaus. An unexpected treat!
For the last near-decade, Abyss X has been a regular fixture in the experimental corners of the club scene, DJing, producing, collaborating and promoting her iconic Nature Loves Courage festival in Crete, where she was born. In the last two years she's had the chance to rethink her practice, shifting between Mexico and Berlin and working out where her music needs to come from, and where it might go. The result is 'Freedom Doll', an explosion of ideas and energy that takes the first blush of love to its thunderous conclusion, juxtaposing romance with the imagery and philosophy of the Minoan culture, the Cretan Bronze Age civilization whose art and ideas laid the foundations for Europe's next age. Abyss X sees the album as a proxy for the Minoan woman - even the artwork finds her taking the historically male role of the bull rider, piloting her steer in an attempt to tame the contemporary patriarchal landscape.
Handling the production herself and taking control of lead vocals, Abyss X immediately swerves from her past material in the most lavish way. While records like 2018's mystical 'Pleasures of the Bull' used her voice, it was often shrouded in distortion and reverb and augmented with rippled electronic rhythms. She burst out of her shackles on 2020's trip-hop inspired 'INNUENDO', but even that album is just a faint memory here. On 'Freedom Doll' she sounds as if she's been uncaged ceremoniously, singing sensually on opening track 'Ascend' over strummed steel-strung acoustic guitar as if it's an unplugged diva shoegaze revival. Proggy, psychedelic and unashamedly folk inspired, the track brings in fluttering flute sounds and viola scrapes before grinding to a halt. There's a '90s MTV scan to 'A Chew', that lets Abyss X's romantic inclinations bubble to the surface with lush orchestration and layered, earworm vocals - it's like a black clad, greasepaint daubed answer to Tori Amos's quirky alt-pop.
Juliana Huxtable turns up on two tracks, adding a poetic nowness to Abyss X's turbulent circus. She annunciates clearly over tidal piano runs on 'Vacuum', lurching into a downtempo thump before Abyss X joins on the chorus; on 'Never Apart', she brings the record to a lysergic close, curling her words into dissociated stutters and slurring over granulised strums. These moments spike Abyss X's pop cocktail with an experimental tonic that pays its respects to her earlier canon. They make tracks like the eccentric, baroque 'From Hot to Cold' and grinding 'This Strange Asylum' burst with even more energy, laying out Abyss X's map of passions like a satellite image. She harks back to vintage industrial music on 'Banyana', chanting as if she's possessed by angels, and reduces her siren scream to a hoarse rasp on 'Feeling a Type Away', sounding psychedelic but controlled.
'Freedom Doll' represents a new era for Abyss X. It's an ambitious and boundlessly enjoyable set that simmers familiarity into fresh, resonant sounds that propel it far beyond the cybernetic gloom of experimental club music. By looking into the past and fully harnessing her voice, Abyss X has thrust herself into a vivid, lavish parallel age that's at odds with our current reality. And thank fuck for that.