However, let it be known; this is not your typical Alela Diane record. There is no banjo plucked and drenched in ghostly reverb, no violin wielded like fine china at your chest cavity, no chiffon blowing curiously in the wind and most importantly, nothing vaguely freaky going on that goes beyond the inevitable waxing and waning of the moon. Rather, there comes a time when artistic pursuits warrant a new approach-one that reflects personal growth and its continued path-and therein lies the root base of the expanded sounds of Alela Diane and Wild Divine, released worldwide on Rough Trade Records.
Much of Divine's material was gathered from 2009's constant travels: penned during long drives in the back of a tour van, and tested in windowless greenrooms overseas. Such environs prove hotbeds for creativity-though it's rare you can truly harness it in the blur of cities passed-and Alela knew the songs could not be actualized until she fully unpacked her suitcase and settled into the sturdy walls she knew best. And blessed be; once the bags were emptied, they gathered dust for nearly all of 2010, marking the longest hiatus Alela had taken since she'd first embarked on the touring odyssey.
After hunkering down and sufficiently nesting-with a wedding to bassist-turned-guitarist Tom Bevitori to seal the deal-the intensive tunesmithing commenced. Having found herself poised at a newly-acquired piano, Alela's words were fastidiously chosen and chords repeatedly changed, and all with utmost intention. Most of the lyrics were of borne of her sole observations, those concerning life, death and the unknown, but for the first time, she began co-writing with Tom; the tenderness of this situation is obvious. Songs like "Long Way Down," and "Desire" showcase the collaborative efforts of the couple.
Producer Scott Litt (REM, The Replacements, Patti Smith) caught wind of the circulating demos and found them engaging enough to cease his seven-year stint of dormancy. In summer of 2010, Litt invited the group down to his home studio in Venice, CA to share in his vision; he awakened their minds to new ideas and encouraged the musical progression that was clearly within them. Also, in the midst of this collaboration, a few exploratory reassignments occurred; Tom handed off the bass to Jonas Haskins-whom they met while he was performing with singer-songwriter Marissa Nadler, took up the guitar typically in Alela's hands, while the drums were manned by friend to Jonas, Jason Merculief. Tom Menig, Alela's father, remained steadfast as lead guitarist and artistic contributor, and soon, a band name once scrawled on a sheet of paper in a tour van, standing as an homage to the unknown, could be fully realized; Wild Divine was born.
With this solid backdrop of musicians behind her, all in arms with their primary instruments, Alela was given the full opportunity to take the reigns of her strong, disarming voice. While no one has ever questioned the unique and beautiful force with which she sings, Divine showcases a truly unabashed vocalist with an even more startling presence. You can find her weaving familiarly delicate, astral melodies in songs like "The Wind," or playing amongst pulsing organ swells in "To Begin." Or, you can catch yourself downwind of a full, steady gust of power giving way to moments of fragility, surrendering to the capricious ways of life in "Rising Greatness." Whatever the song encountered, she moves through it with remarkable freedom in expression-both vocally and emotionally-and is bound to sweep you up along with her.
Ladies and Gentlemen, there you have it; Alela Diane and Wild Divine is a work of many elements: of maturity and new direction, of miles traveled on limbs in need of stretching, of darkness and the light that follows, and a testament to the sturdy walls which will hold us, once we make our way back to them.
By: Raquel Nasser
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