Painted Girl - Familiar Trees of the North West
Familiar Trees of the North West
May 22, 2022
A vibrant energy floods in following a contrastingly calm sample of wholesome lapping water. A gleaming, brightly coloured gush of synth, vocals and percussion overwhelming the brief shoreside scene. It is not long until Elphi begins to glide atop the instrumental, her vocal tones and their enticing, auto-tuned falsity able to follow the dynamic bounce of the track. Past its slick, sparkling surface Get Passed You toys with the idea of love. A generally emotive melody and lyrics about lying and heartbreak present a soulful purpose at its centre. But as Elphi bats lyrics back and forth with pace and playfulness and the beat’s slickness does not repent, it is hard not to see a game-like quality in the song. Especially in its titular premise, inferring that troubles in love and relationships are something that you can deftly sneak or push past. This sort of upbeat and impassioned outlook on heartbreak is employed a lot in modern pop music, and this opener certainly indulges in that, with beautiful production and a confident performance. Elphi is presented as lovelorn and carefree simultaneously.
Heartfelt chords arranged into a downbeat but buoyant sequence communicate a turn more toward emotion than ebullience for the next track. As the vocals shoot skyward wistfully on Press Play, references to the District Line and a tongue-in-cheek mention of D&B roots the track firmly in the UK’s capital. Our view of the city tilts upwards toward the stars as Elphi references midnight lights and the luminosity of the moon. Having said this, the number-centric rhyme scheme in the chorus alongside the concept of simply rewinding life back to better times teases at that those same aura of cool lightheartedness.
Chains further showcases the production masterclass that the release offers, as the touching nature of pianos and bells are kept separate from a heavy, hard-hitting bass. In one moment Elphi’s vocals soar out gracefully amidst a melodious ambience, and in the next, the production is bolstering her and helping to communicate her sombre but triumphant energy. Chains also brings a realisation that Elphi exists as much in the cyber-realm as she does in these heartfelt real-life moments she describes. The concept of binding chains reminiscent of online communication, and the unnatural ability to rewind and pause her heartbreak afforded to her as easy as hitting pause on a YouTube video. This digitised side is best displayed in the sudden change of heart she has toward the end of the track, this hyperactive, quintessentially 'online' attitude supported by pristine instrumentation that sends us through a reality-bending wormhole as her voice jumps out in a jarringly robotic manner.
Synths sound a little bit more distorted as Neverland casts an atmosphere of tribulation. Elphi pits us in the middle of a party situation, suffocating in the throng of dancing and sound. But through this feeling of breathlessness and worry, her voice floats hopefully, delivering one of the most memorable chorus hooks from the whole release. This feeling does not last long however, as we find ourselves back in the claustrophobic realm of the real world Elphi is desperate to escape.
Disconnect enables us to meet with Elphi on the other side. As the instrumentation utilises a gentle approach, ameliorating behind David Bowie as he speaks about the unlimited potential of the internet, Elphi joins us as an incorporeal spirit. Her voice floats, purely artificial in its delivery, yet harbouring a beauty and angelic nature that reaches deeper than much of what the listener has heard so far. Ephemeral in its runtime, it feels as though the listener really meets Elphi in a plain where she is comfortable and free.
Synth stabs reminiscent of Eurotrance burst forth. An atmosphere of transience is created as Elphi sings about memories and nostalgia. The track Memory features the only vocal guest on the release, Jonas LR bringing things through to a powerful breakdown with an impassioned and steely vocal performance. Elphi’s voice is mangled, spread over the instrumentation in and uneven and heavily pitched manner. As the refrain glides back in alongside, the listener gets an impression of how comfortable the artist is weighing a melodious poppy sensibility against heavily manipulated electronic chaos.
Pop is certainly the overarching style on No More Aeroplanes, chugging synth bass supporting twinkling melodies as Elphi delivers one of her best performances on CHAINS as a whole. The artist jumps from upbeat tunes to fast-paced singing effortlessly, giving the track a thoughtful purity as well as imbuing it with a speedy confidence, highlighted by the feelgood lyric: ‘no one will love you like you do’. Amidst tracks chronicling dual personalities and detachment caused by modern technology, this track stands out as a moment of wholesome beauty.
Rhythmic piano chords and a shaker set out a meaningful aura on Coming Over, as downcast lyrics are swallowed into a large drumbeat and bass sequence. Once again, Elphi encapsulates with her chorus, lyrics coming thick and fast before she guides her voice into a delicate and heartfelt melody.
Resonant vocal notes drift toward the listener through a cloud of cyber dust. Love is trivialised once again, Elphi referring to life simply as a fiction with no happy ending. Every so often the listener will hear debris falling from the half-digitised vocal performance, sparkling as it falls to the floor of the soundscape. It feels fitting that the incredibly varied instrumentation is noticeably absent as the mixtape comes to a close, save for subtle supporting synths. Dance In The Rain showcases the artist with everything else stripped away, her ability to showcase emotion in a way that speaks to something real and something technological simultaneously.
Consistency is key in pop-centric releases and this is certainly where CHAINS excels. Each track combines an imaginative vocal performance with slick production. Elphi traverses the realms of the online space as easy as the streets of London, and in doing so, is able to navigate well-rounded explorations of modern love. There is an effortless buoyancy, an infectious pace and a relentless energy running throughout the entire tracklist.