Have you ever wondered what it might sound like if Emma Ruth Rundle recorded a doom album? (OK, you have those Mizmor and Thou collabs, but work with me here.) The answer to that question might be A Birdsong, A Ghost, the new album from New Jersey funeral doom outfit Oldest Sea. Formed in 2017 as a solo project by frontwoman Samantha Marandola, Oldest Sea originally performed ethereal folk music before Marandola’s husband, Andrew, joined the band shortly after. As a duo, they began to write heavier music, which lead them to the sound you hear on A Birdsong, A Ghost.
Oldest Sea cite a variety of inspirations, the obvious picks like Shape of Despair and Mournful Congregation plus more eclectic selections like Roy Orbison, Björk and soundtrack composers like John Carpenter. The last one is particularly notable because there is a cinematic current that runs through A Birdsong. It’s immediately apparent on first song “Sacred Destruction,” which opens with sparse, expansive chords and Samantha Marandola’s shimmering vocals. The album picks up speed throughout its nearly 40-minute runtime before concluding with similarly crashing chords and angelic singing.
“Just before we finished writing the album, I came across the last known recording of a bird native to Hawaii known as the Kauai O’o, who was declared extinct in 1989,” Samantha Marandola tells Decibel. “The audio was from 1987, and it was of a male calling out to a mate not knowing he was the last of his species. There was something so profoundly heartbreaking about hearing this otherwise prosaic birdsong.This album is expression of feminine rage, grief, loneliness, and transformation. But it’s also a howl into the emptiness: a birdsong.”
A Birdsong, A Ghost is out on December 1.
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