Boomkat Product Review:
Bianca Scout follows collaborations with Space Afrika, Ben Vince, and Elena Isolini with a spellbinding new album of hypnagogic aether-pop, blunted after-hours ambience, and chopped-n-screwed sacred music - highly recommended if yr into Grouper, Empress, Teresa Winter or Eartheater.
'The Heart of the Anchoress' twists diaristic recordings into a dissociated long-form narrative interspersed with spiralling lullabies and clipped rhythms weaving around the famous pipe organ at Camberwell's St. Giles' Church (where much of the album was recorded) and a chaotic south London ambiance that adds texture and a rattling percussion to each track.
In a cultural landscape trapped in a nostalgia loop, it's refreshing to hear an artist make distinctly British music that's haunted without being hauntological. Scout avoids obvious references, drawing on a musical vocabulary that's as informed by contemporary pop as it is experimental forms. In her hands, medieval church music compliments autotuned vocals, wobbly afterhours bass drones, and cultural references to a lifestyle that's rooted in the post-pan reality. 'The Heart of the Anchoress' is a folk album that feels philosophically lashed to the club, yet makes none of the usual broad strokes to get our minds there.
On opener 'Empty Space’, organ wails, plucked strings and pedal bumps pierce the room, giving way to rotating foley rhythms that sound like an inverse 4/4. Is it a kick drum or a cable being pulled from an amplifier? Loose beats collide with each other like derailed trains, and Scout's choral vocals swirl into intense sheets of noise. 'Vanguard' extends these ideas further, looping wooden clacks as a foundation for wavering organ drones and Scout's unforgettable vocal turn, placing her somewhere between Empress's Nicola Hodgkinson and Eartheater, flitting from dry British nonchalance to hyperdream poptimism seamlessly.
It's the low-key moments that stand out most: 'Chorus' and 'Lamina' shuttle Scout's voice into the background, submerging it in reverb and echo. The latter dispenses with them almost entirely, foregrounding nauseous organ oozes that build into a fervent crescendo. Elsewhere, Scout embodies the folk whispers that run throughout the album on 'Phantom Limb', wailing an uncannily beautiful song that materialises like mist on a bronze age burial mound. And while so many contemporary artists are more than happy to look into the past simply for decoration, Scout sounds as if she's channeling spirits that control and traumatise her. 'The Heart of the Anchoress' is melancholy and euphoric, angry and ecstatic - its an album that fits the contemporary mood, as we wonder whether to lose ourselves in digital confusion or escape into a past that's deep, dark, and druidic.