A few years back, I discovered a great French band named Children in Paradise. I was taken with the folksy textures and the Floydian emotions, not to mention the great choruses. After a couple of amazing albums from CiP, singer Dam Kat has recently released her first solo album, “Alawn”, which continues some of what CiP offered, but also explores some new ideas. The album released officially on January 3rd.
Like I said, Dam Kat is the singer for CiP, but I find that “Alawn” drops most of the Pink Floyd influence of Children of Paradise, so you won’t hear the emotive guitar solos that you might expect. Instead, this album focuses more on textures and emotions, mostly established through vocals and beautiful melodies. Tone and atmosphere are the kings here. The whole album is haunting, macabre, and darkly melodic. This is not an album of light and peace, but inner turmoil and nightfall.
Musically, the album contains more grit, dusk, and even an alternative edge at times. Like Children in Paradise, though, the album is darkened folk music, as well, with lots of pipes and flutes and strings. It’s more gothic and Romantic than pastoral and peaceful, though. In fact, Dam Kat even uses some harsh, creepy vocals on a few tracks, and I’ll be the first to say these vocals sound rather unsettling. Strangely, the album almost feels proggier than anything else she has done yet, though.
Lyrically, the album plays on themes of inner darkness and the battle towards the light. It’s about belief, courage, and determination. I feel that the music, and especially the instrumentation, really lend a hand to these ideas. I love the glorious pipes that are actually quite commonly used on almost every single song. They feel mournful and poignant. The keys and flutes serve a similar purpose, as do some orchestrations that make their way into the mix. Surprisingly, the guitars here are usually more raw and distorted, serving as a direct contrast to the beauty of the more folksy instruments being used.
Like usual, Dam Kat offers vocals that are quite mixed in style. Her style is quite impassioned and almost urgent. She also provides some very strange and interesting vocals and harmonies that come across as atonal and even creepy at times. This variety makes for an album that flows and never feels stale. Additionally, the choruses on this album are understated and subtle, but once you’ve heard the album a few times you will really understand and relish them. They are mournful and agonized much of the time.
I have several favorites on this album. “Courage and Sorrow” is a fantastic opener with heavy folk elements, strong melodies, and some uncommon vocal techniques that sound great. “Devil Inside Me” is an inner journey into a dark side, and the vocals are appropriately harsh in nature, to some extent. This song also has one of my favorite choruses on the album. “Feel Free” has one of the most subtle choruses I’ve ever heard, but it really works. I love how the song goes from gentle and airy to more distorted and guitar-heavy near the end.
“I Write a Poem” is another one of my favorites: The chorus is so wonderfully delicate and emotive. “Try to Love” is a two part song that is definitely my favorite on the album. I love the guitar work and the urgent nature of the vibe. It is perhaps more aggressive than the rest of the album, too. “I Believe” ends the album on a melancholy, melodic note that feels perfectly determined and sincere.
Dam Kat has shown through “Alawn” that her solo writing is just as good as through Children in Paradise. This album is haunting and shadowy as the protagonist fights to bring light to her mind. It is an emotional affair, for sure, but the album also impresses musically through evocative textures and striking melodies. While the album did release digitally in December, I am counting this release towards 2018, and it is definitely a great way to start the year.
Find Dam Kat online: