Right from the get‑go, Mary Epworth’s second album announces itself as both confident and unpredictable.
What begins as a ballad almost as bombastic as Purple Rain morphs startlingly into a cascade of disruptive synths and wind instruments as Gone Rogue earns its title. Last Night similarly moves from relative calm and serenity to a climax of raw, rough stabbing. Her central metaphor – ‘elytral’ relates to the smooth armour worn by beetles, protecting the vulnerability beneath – is thus explored throughout, as we’re kept guessing whether the music’s going to comfort or disorientate. It makes for a thrilling experience, dimensions away from the dull, pastoral whimsy into which many contemporary alt folk artists lapse. Five years since the originality of her 2012 debut Dream Life won praise, Epworth has pushed on to become more instinctive, allowing the production (recorded in LA with Thom Monahan) to embrace the bold and the impulsive. So while the songs stand up, they’re presented in an array of settings – Burned It Down lollops with the faux glam stomp of Goldfrapp, Towards The Dawn echoes Bowie’s Low, while Lost Everything matches The xx for subtle grace. A new kind of beetlemania.