crystal dorval - white poppy

Review of Natural Phenomena by White Poppy

Artist: White Poppy
Album: Natural Phenomena
Rating: 7
Label: Not Not Fun Records

White Poppy is the creation of Crystal Dorval, a Canadian experimental musician and songwriter hailing from Vancouver Island, BC, but now settled in Vancouver. Her new album, Natural Phenomena, has just been released, and within the listening pleasure is perhaps a longing and nostalgia for nature. If her self-titled debut album was described by Nylon Magazine as containing “sonic beauty” within the angst of a coming of age tale, this latest offering has expanded into a more fully aware aural landscape containing both disturbance and release. As Dorval also is behind the website Sanity Soap, a profoundly moving weblog devoted to mental health awareness, with pieces of description and connection around depression and understanding, perhaps it’s no surprise that her music encompasses both anxiety and comfort.

The theme of nature that permeates the disc might find its base in White Poppy’s original home territory. Vancouver Island is one of the largest Pacific islands, a place of great beauty with a long and fragmented history. Apparently it has a thriving technology sector, as well as being a place where battles over logging and watershed protection are fought, without much success. Perhaps this contrast between what is beautiful and timeless and the encroaching forces of development, which must be especially keen in a place like this, inform the eerily beautiful moments in this music, where both a vague sense of unease and an hypnotic calm repeat until they seep into your consciousness, like a wavelength designed to encourage certain types of brain activity. This is especially true on the track, “Wild Mind”, where a buzzy jittery electronic sound is juxtaposed against a delicate background, carrying forward a sense of tension at the beginning, urban nerves invading a natural space. Then the tension is eased out into a repetitive calmer place, until something like a chorus comes along to soothe.

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