The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


Blackened Pool Joe Banks , December 19th, 2018 07:32

Impressive debut album imbues millennial folk with post-rock tension

It was the voice that first did it for me: slightly cracked and reaching back into the past, yet without a hint of affectation. Imagine Shirley Collins as a young 20-something from Nottingham, dazzled and disturbed in equal parts by the perpetual mysteries of love and life.

Keto is the alias of Leah Sanderson, and the minimal yet utterly compelling music she makes sounds as outside of time as her voice. She describes it as “millennial folk”, and there are certainly elements of traditional music in here. But listen closely, and there are just as many hints of first-wave post-rock in Sanderson’s sonorous finger picking, as though Pink Moon was facing off against Spiderland – there may be no big explosions of noise to break the still waters, but Blackened Pool has the same crepuscular, minor key ambience and feeling of unresolved tension throughout.

‘Sublime Was The Warning’ in particular wanders in Slint-ish territory, the distant chug of a distorted guitar ratcheting up the sense of unease. ‘What We Do’ promises to do similar before a vintage keyboard melody turns it instead into a shimmering slice of doom pop. Another moment of aching loveliness occurs on ‘Always’, the drowsy, half-asleep verse suddenly flowering into a radiantly delicate chorus, its high harmony recalling the young Kate Bush.

But it’s on those songs where her folk roots show that Sanderson is most impressive. ‘Are We There Yet?’ is downright spooky, a strange but fiercely evocative murder ballad, the protagonist “working out how to stem the flow of your blood” in the endless rural night. ‘Jackie’ is another powerfully conveyed internal monologue – as the title character struggles to remember who she is, Rob Rosa’s stately violin becomes wilder, desperately trying to retrace the steps back to sanity.

Recorded in the “eerily serene setting” of the Outer Hebrides, Blackened Pool is a determinedly downbeat work, but one leavened by chinks of light, the autumnal sun breaking through grey clouds at dawn.