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Spellling
Mazy Fly Kareem Ghezawi , February 22nd, 2019 08:41

Californian's Bay Area has always been a melting point of cultures and a hotbed for forward-thinking, politically progressive musicians, but the two were kept relatively stratified among racial lines up until the beginning of this decade. Today it's women of colour that are at the forefront of the area's experimental noise scene, with Spellling at the helm ever since the release of her debut, Pantheon Of Me.

Mazy Fly is the latest snapshot of her evolving musical narrative and her first record released on Sacred Bones. In it, Chrystia Cabral allows her social mask to shatter at her feet as she delves deeper into the recesses of her mind and tends to the overgrown gardens found therein. Even her name sounds like some ancient, creole soothsayer. A link to the heavens that inherited her gift from her great grandmother.

The hums that mutate throughout the opener 'Red' sound like mystical incantations and mantras purifying a space ready for prayer. Her layered and distorted wails, sighs and screams are woven into the background tapestry of stressed synth and psychic unease, generating a palpable tension. And it's this tension that lies at the centre of the LP's dynamics, both as a passive undercurrent of discontent and as a counterweight to the wholesomeness of its romanticised muses.

This tension builds up to an early crescendo with the next track 'Haunted Water'. Listening to it, is to bear witness to a private séance with Cabral attempting to post-rationalise the psychic scars of terror left in her ancestors' consciousness. It's a grim meditation on the disembodied spirits that still haunt the dark depths of the Middle Passage, the main trade route of transatlantic slavery in which 15% died at sea. And it's grief on wax.

With the exception of a few atmospheric skits and curveballs that preserve the stress, the record is relatively upbeat. She sings of the sun and the birth of stars like a worshipping druid in 'Under The Sun' and muses on aliens experiencing the rich musical heritage of Earth on the cute pop number 'Real Fun'. If there are patterns in the motif then 'Secret Thread' is the blueprint. Much like the album, it's a psychedelic nursery rhyme and a limbo between rapture and doom, both musically and thematically.
She laces the backdrop with everything from minimal wave ostinatos, 808 club jams and crispy tape loops using her beloved Juno 106 synthesizer and loop pedal. The imagery of flight is also prevalent throughout, most obviously in all the swarms, flocks, flies, angels, spaceships and flying saucers sound effects she peppers the sound with.

Spellling's honey-soaked vocals and eccentric and experimental neo-soul style conjures images of avant-garde female maverick's like Zola Jesus, Bjork and FKA Twigs, and like them, she marches to the sound of her own drum. She thankfully also has the good graces to never drag you along. She seduces you to follow, to see where this is all going. But as you listen, you realise there is no destination with Mazy Fly, it really is all about the ride. The uplifting moments, the claustrophobic moments, the head scratching and thought-provoking moments.

It's not a perfect album by any means, but I don't think it wants to be. It just wants to, be. Musically it walks a proverbial tightrope and often loses balance. The beauty, however, is in the moments when it does fall. Because for every time Mazy Fly falls from the sky, there is always a safety net on standby briefly followed by the next enthusiastic trapeze flip in Chrystia Cabral's psychedelic circus of one.

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