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Dear Laika - Pluperfect Mind

Dear Laika - Pluperfect Mind

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Pluperfect Mind, the label debut from the 23-year-old UK-based musician Dear Laika (a.k.a. Isabelle “Izzy” Thorn), is an extraordinary creation — a beautiful and singular oddity which exists in the liminal space between dreamworlds and a blurry, watercoloured version of reality. It is a reflection on the past few years of Izzy’s life, during which she sought solitude in the North Wessex Downs while beginning her gender transition.

A consistent theme of the album is isolation, both from other people and from parts of herself, and the intention to overcome anxieties and reconnect. Pluperfect Mind also chronicles aspects of Izzy’s own transgender experience, from the painful tedium of waiting for hormone treatment, to the elation of finally inhabiting a body that feels right. It captures the sense of being cast adrift between an uncomfortable past and an uncertain future, living outside of heteronormativity and caught in “queer time”. Izzy’s mercurial songwriting aims to suspend the perception of time, allowing the listener to inhabit an immersive half-lit world of mystical landscapes, volatile atmospheres and shifting rhythms.

A meditative album that grows richer with multiple listens, lush alien choir voices float in on “Phlebotomy” creating an intoxicating, ethereal sense of calm, while on “Guinefort’s Grave” we hear distant thunderclaps smudged over electronic fuzz and warbling synths. "Inward Life (We Exist)" opens with a piano, prepared with screws between its strings, tolling like a church bell, before blossoming into an elegy with yearning violins; elsewhere, descriptions of lilac moons, mouldy air, fauns and smoke-engulfed fields create an atmospheric folk opera. “Black Moon, Lilith” is the emotional zenith of the album, a song about desire, its reckoning and its actualization from a trans lesbian perspective that culminates in the triumphant sound of a string ensemble glittering and warped like holographic foil. Pluperfect Mind builds towards a seraphic finale in the title track, in which a beatific choral tapestry emerges from a sea of whispers and sighs and is finally consumed in a cloud of ecstatic, smouldering drone.

Having grown up singing in church choirs and listening to classical music, those influences can still be heard in Izzy’s music now. Although she rarely listens to classical music nowadays, the rich harmonies of composers such as Messiaen, Finzi and Ravel have left an indelible mark on her own writing, and she freely mutates samples of Bach and Beethoven beyond recognition. During her transition, having to make the shift from baritone to alto, she was captivated and inspired by the expressive intensity of Kate Bush, Vashti Bunyan and FKA twigs; her own clear, keening vocals soar throughout Pluperfect Mind, breathy and otherworldly. She whispers French poetry and lilts over lines about warped memories, exploring her inner world with gentle ruminations on love, hormone therapy and dreams.

Pluperfect Mind is a beguiling collection of vivid lyrics and celestial song, bound together with digital glitch and field recordings. Comparisons can be made to Björk, Tim Hecker or Bat For Lashes, but ultimately, Dear Laika’s exploration of the experimental and the mystical builds something intricate and intimate that is truly original and bewitching.

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