The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


Kee Avil
Crease Antonio Poscic , June 9th, 2022 08:57

The debut album from Vicky Mettler balances pop sensibilities and experimental incinations, finds Antonio Poscic

At first listen, a tingling sensation that could easily (and wrongly) be perceived as coldness and distance pervades the debut record by Montreal based guitarist and producer Vicky Mettler. Her instrumentals, led by shy slivers of guitar, crackling noise, and humming textures, are broken and fragmented. As if someone shattered a PJ Harvey record, then messed up while trying to glue it back together. Her voice is similarly displaced. Multiple sources of whispers, spoken word, and occasional singsong try to coexist and cooperate with each other, while forced to stumble through a maze of electronic, acoustic, and found sounds. However, these disoriented soundscapes hide meaning, a deep personal truth waiting just around the corner of another sharp riff.

Like the music of Jenny Hval and Gazelle Twin – Mettler dons a papier-mâché / sellotape mask on the album cover similar to those worn by Elizabeth Bernholz – non-idiomatic takes on post-punk and chamber pop are used as projection screens, as a way of looking at oneself from the outside. Each of the ten cuts is a contained world of its own, the artist reveals in a text accompanying the release, a reflection of a particular part of the psyche perhaps, yet when observed together they form an elusive fiction. The spurts of voice and array of noisy effects of ‘See, my shadow’ stabilise into the shimmering bubbles of sound design on ‘saf’. “How many days have gone”, Mettler gnarls here, elongating trailing words like a cassette being swallowed by a deck, before breaking down again in the perplexing industrial gravity of ‘Drying’. Throughout this sequence, the sensation is that of participating in a therapy session between the superego, ego, and id, like peering into a thought process as it deals with itself.

‘Melting Slow’ and ‘And I’ live in a dichotomy of sounds and words as upbeat harmonics and instrumental twists pretend everything will be OK, while ominous lyrics and their rattling delivery hint at a different truth. Meanwhile, ‘Okra Ooze’ delivers the first truly gut-wrenching, shiver-inducing blow of deconstructed pop and ‘I too, bury’ lets piano stabs run amok, forming bars around Mettler’s susurrations and caging its desperate attempt to reach outside. And as her voice rises from a whisper to a controlled roar, it gives structure to one of the most thrilling sequences on the album, then disappears in the droning strings and crumbling textures of ‘Devil’s Sweet Tooth’. Observed from a distance, Mettler’s approach closely shadows Scott Walker’s later day deranged avant compositions, balancing pop sensibilities with a keen ear for musical experimentation and resulting in an album whose musical explorations are as intriguing as its emotional impact. “Before you know, I'll be gone again”, she quips against a repeating guitar lick, and closes a stunning debut.