Two years after underrated debut Yesterday Is Gone, Dana Gavanski avoids the difficult-second-album quagmire by releasing what feels like another first. When It Comes is a forward-looking, dreamy renewal of Gavanski’s quirkier, spirited side that embraces an opportunity to reset expectations, including her own.
A frustrating period of vocal recuperation meant Gavanski not only had to reconnect to her own voice, but also face some bigger existential questions. For a musician who had been on the verge of a breakthrough tour before the pandemic, this hiatus came at the worst time. Working through these changes “ felt like a battle at times, which I frequently lost” she says. The album title reflects both the weight of wanting to move on and the release of just letting things come to you in time, or getting out of your own way. While it’s clear that Gavanski has reclaimed her passion for songwriting on When it Comes, her new direction is less about trying to be innovative and more of a return to something authentic and purposeful.
After a few listens, that purpose slowly crystallises as an openhearted call to be kind to yourself and be present with whatever is going on for you right now. Inspired by the solitude of winter, opening track, ‘I Kiss The Night’ sums this up beautifully and its gently descending piano riff leans into the loneliness, setting up a calming, careful pace that ripples throughout the songs that follow. From there, we are taken on more of a stroll than a race through the album. We have the space and the time to feel its mix of organic and electronic acoustic textures, discovering new things on each walk. While Gavanski’s creative process may have felt urgent through the limitations she was under, this is not passed onto the listener. It’s really easygoing on the whole and this is definitely an album to take with you on walks in natural, beautiful places, such is its airiness and sense of space.
Gavanski is sometimes compared to Cate Le Bon in terms of her more melancholic tones. Yet on this album her voice shifts and flutters in more upbeat ways, embodying a multitude of characters from childhood memories, folklore and myth. You can hear other reference points, for example the velvety shades of Trish Keenan on ‘Bend Away and Fall’ and ‘Under the Sky’ (helped in some part by the Moog and harpsichord polyrhythms and arpeggios). Elsewhere, there’s a little nod to Aldous Harding on ‘Letting Go’. The prominence of Moog sounds thread through in both subtle, supporting flourishes on ‘The Day Unfolds’ and ‘Lisa’, and more insistently on the Stereolab-like punctuation of ‘Indigo Highway’. Gavanski and her full band, including her partner and co-producer James Howard, conjure the synthethised spirit of avant-garde European ’80s pop and cold wave, marrying it with the strong core of folk-inspired songwriting and instruments. The result is a diverse collection of ideas and melodies that holds together consistently and reassuringly, even when it dabbles in more experimental noodling and squelchy idiosyncrasies.
While the majority of the album eventually settles and finds its level after a few listens, the last two songs still feel quite apart. Much darker and with a curious humour, ‘The Reaper’, has an unyielding, sparse, stabbing rhythm and layers of vocal calls, chirrups and sighs which make it persistently interesting. On closing song ‘Knowing To Trust’, unusual embellishments, muted pads and bubbling synths form a backdrop to Gavanski’s breathy and world-weary vocal. Taken together, they end When It Comes on a suddenly profound and unresolved mood. Amid both blissful rising swells and sickly detuned synths, there is a duality to her final words as they ring out: ‘I know your face, I know your face’. In the silence that follows, we’re left wondering if it’s a warning or a reassurance. Maybe it’s both and neither. We hear what we need to. As Gavanski says, “words… to me, a lot of the time, they are pivots. They point in a direction but don’t necessarily stay there.”
When It Comes is released on 29th April, via Full Time Hobby
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