It’s only just been over a year ago since Daughter once again captured and shattered our hearts with their surreal and ethereal album Not to Disappear (2015), epitomising a tragic decline of individual selfhood. The indie folk band, of guitarist and vocalist Elena Tonra, guitarist Igor Haefeli, and drummer Remi Aguiella, didn’t stay static after their 2014 album release. The band was swiftly approached to produce an original score for Life is strange: Before The Storm, an animated video game series. Before The Storm (2017) seems an almost direct prequel to Not To Disappear (2015), propelling the themes of isolation, anxiety, and distressed selfhood, translated via a teenager’s subjectivity. Tonra makes a plead to gain selfhood, in the way teenagers do via peer validation, demanding “friend make sense of me”. The album is mostly ambient instrumental, with Tonra’s vocals sparsely threaded through tracks of delicacy, and then subsequently hauntingly used to their full effect on songs such as ‘All I Wanted’ and ‘A Hole in the Earth’.
Though developed out of an unusual context for Daughter, the album reinforces their well crafted, innovative sound, and becomes a fugitive from conventional genres, whilst nurturing new threads of life in more ambient tracks, such as ‘ I Can’t Live Here Anymore’. Before The Storm (2017) is a beautiful architecture of sonic layers, combining their renowned use of reverb and delay, creating a sonic world of magical realism. Within a single track, we are both swept away by delicate cathartic beauty of Haefeli’s guitar, and then firmly planted back into reality with Aguilella’s emotive drums.
…a beautiful architecture of sonic layers
Before the Storm opens with ‘Glass’- a dreamy guitar reverb, suggesting a slight sense of optimism, compared to previous tracks on Not To Disappear. Elena’s vocals whimsically begin to haunt the track, as atmosphere builds with some intense synth work. A sigh of relief from fans, as Daughter’s highly emotive and heavier sound bleeds through. Indeed, there is never a static moment of calm; Daughter always invokes both sonic and emotional depths, creating antithetical moments seamlessly.
In ‘Flaws’ a clean reverb is swapped for a heavier distortion in a more towards the ambient cinematic nature of the album. Tonra’s vocals take a back seat, yet this is in no way a detrimental to the words of anxiety, isolation and replaced via sonic experimentation, her ethereal vocals lightly sewn underneath. The album is constantly revolving, as we as listeners are too revolving; experiencing a teenager’s tumultuous relationship with love, identity and belonging. ‘The Right Way Around’,placed almost at halfway of the album, embodies a cacophony of analogue and digital sounds, creating a strange and uncanny atmosphere for Daughter, and is arguably the most harsh and bitter track on the album. Not To Disappear’s influence is audible on ‘Witches’, tinged with staccato sonic magical realism, whereby layering created a highly ephemeral track. Daughter seems born for the cinematic; their technical accomplishments of instrumental ambience and dissonance are left to shine. Before the Storm seems a very real ‘Daughter’ album, created with the same intense ferocity that have gone alongside their previous two albums. Without the backing of the animated game, Before the Storm is a record that stands alone.
Daughter seems born for the cinematic
Before the Storm can be compared to other soundtracks, such as Jon Hopkin’s ‘How I Live Now’ score and Dustin O Halloran’s ‘Like Crazy’ sountrack, all of which create a real sense of catharsis through the act of music; Daughter increases their presence as a sonic medicine for emotional pain. ‘All I Wanted’ acts as the albums most ‘single’ friendly pieces, implementing Elena’s fingerpicking style, haunting vocals and lyrics: “and your tears sting friend, you have waited the end out there, golden hour finding”. In a Facebook and Instagram post, Elena noted “It’s half a recreation of my teenage voice and half my adult voice looking back, observing the scenes.” The song was the last to be finished on the soundtrack she continues, noting “I just let the song take it’s own shape. Layered a couple of bass lines and improvised the guitar parts and the vocals – a few things were re-recorded but a lot is pretty much first take.” Elena’s vocal presence increases, as anxiety and solitude builds into ‘Dreams of William’, with her vocals distorted into analogue feedback, fighting against the wave to ‘disappear’.
‘Voices’ is the most upbeat track off the album, dominated by acoustic guitars gliding and subtly dominating the track, and does feel like a coming of age moment. Tonra’s lyrics are as always haunting, and take on a pleading repetition: “you have buried childish qualities, friend make sense of me… I have many destructive qualities, friend make sense of me” she demands in ‘A Hole in the Earth”. Daughter manages to keep the aura and life of their music strange and unpredictably beautiful, taking risks that payoff to elevate their dissonant ethereal beauty.