Gota Fría is a weather phenomenon. Literally translated as the ‘cold drop,’ it can cause violent downpours and storms (that’s probably just offended the sensibilities of a meteorologist in its crass simplicity – *sorry/not sorry*). On Beth Rowley’s second album, a steady decade after the fevered anticipation and nomination frenzy of her debut, Little Dreamer, the follow-up has all manner of tempestuous squalls and inundations.
The first album was dominated by the cautious, dawn-like optimism of ‘Sweet Hours,’ the youthfully-defiant shrug of ‘Nobody’s Fault But Mine’ and the outright spiritual joy of Bob Dylan’s ‘I Shall Be Released.’ Gota Fría is somewhere between a shadowy, crepuscular arrangement and the ultimate late-night tale, both in terms of when it ought best to be played (along with a smoke machine or forty B&H for extra atmospherics) and the emotions it represents.
Ultimately, this album presents Beth Rowley, backed by an array of unobtrusive and talented musicians. The instrumentation serves as a bed, queen-sized and highly comfortable, for the ultimate instrument in the studio, which is her exceptional voice. It exists in the Bermuda Triangle of a bluesy gospel, electro-folk and full-bodied soft rock tones, so that there are shades of Amy Winehouse on ‘Brother,’ Christine McVie and Annie Lennox on ‘Brave Face’ and Florence Welch on ‘Princess.’
The most obvious difference a decade makes shows through ‘Only One Cloud.’ In the Noughties, the notion of the only cloud in the sky hanging directly over her head, and lightning shaking her up and pinning her to the ground sounds like a manageable pain in the arse. When the lyric, “I feel so alive and there’s only one cloud in the sky” rolls in, it shifts from a potential whinge to a consideration about how adversity is inevitable, manageable and can strengthen us.
Its Gota Fría incarnation offers the same lyrics with two minutes more of a rain-soaked, heavier arrangement in the rumbling bass and her rueful rasp that suggests the ever-wetter narrator may secretly want to batter that chirpy bastard off the weather forecast. Its arrangement gives it an overt feeling of the blues-rock of Led Zeppelin III. The song’s idea that we can love someone/something that overshadows and daunts us so profoundly suits the more tortured-soul sensibilities of 2018’s version.
Love can certainly live up to Ian Curtis’ ruinous lyrical indictment, but on this album, it is a many-splendoured thing. ‘Forest Fire’ with its assertion, “I’m a livewire and you are too;/ Sparks seem to fly when I’m close to you,” sounds like the start of a mighty fine risk assessment. The further assertion, “I have no desires in starting a forest fire,” suggests that logic can sometimes defeat instinct in Relationship Top Trumps. ‘Shut It Down’ offers a vision of escape from such a damaging partnership, whereas ‘Brave Face’ more optimistically evaluates the simplicity of loving someone with, “It’s a truth that I can’t undo.”
The title track itself concludes with, “Chaos reigns and the Earth it falls,/ But I am still, ‘cos I am yours,” speaking volumes for how Gota Fría strikes the older and gnarlier, post-truth/post-Brexit/blimey-doesn’t-postage-cost-a-bomb-nowadays listener’s ears as a good deed in a naughty world.
Gota Fría is released via Stoopnik Records on 29th June.