Before making her debut as Lisel in 2019, Eliza Bagg had already built an enviable music resumé, having collaborated with such highly regarded avant-garde artists as Meredith Monk, John Zorn, Daniel Wohl, and Julianna Barwick. In the indie world, she sang and engineered for San Fermin, played strings for Kevin Morby and Simon Raymonde's Lost Horizons, and co-led Brooklyn art-rock band Pavo Pavo. Familiar to fans of that group will be the soaring, wistful melodies of Bagg's elegant voice, whose ethereal quality is front and center with Lisel in layered, organic, and distorted forms. Its particular use of vocal samples is indicative of the overall experimental tendencies on the self-produced Angels on the Slope, a title that evokes its otherworldly and off-balance qualities, including dissonance, spacy timbres, and glints of subtle, sculpted noise. While sparse, opener "Ciphers" includes examples of all of the above, as does most of the album. Pulsing vocal samples are introduced in its first few seconds, cuing Bagg's delicate, live soprano, drum machine, and eventual dissonant flute and impromptu-sounding percussion. The track then locks into radiant harmonies, another judiciously employed trait of the record. Quirkier, more syncopated tracks like "Vanity" and "GENUiNE" lighten the mood without being any less impressive. The latter combines shimmering synths, saxophone, electronic drums, and spontaneous percussion, with an electric guitar that echoes one of the main vocal hooks. Speaking of hooks, among the album's catchier material are the synth-heavy "Mirage" and standout "Hollowmaker," a bittersweet pop tune with more of those evocative harmonies. The arrangements are so meticulous and full of musical longing throughout Angels on the Slope that its 32-minute playing time seems just right, unfolding like a tone poem as much as short bursts of pop. Exquisite and fractured, it's a memorable debut and a must for fans of Weyes Blood or any of Bagg's prior indie projects.
AllMusic Review by Marcy Donelson