A.A. Williams arrived so fully formed with her 2019 debut EP and subsequent 2020 album Forever Blue that it seemed she was beyond the notion of growing up in public. As soon as she presented herself to the world, she seemed to know exactly how she wanted to sound, and achieved it at such a level of accomplishment it was hard to imagine she hadn't been making records for decades. As it happens, Williams did have some room for growth after all. As a talented cellist she overdubbed herself into an effective string section on her early recordings, but for her 2021 EP arco, she arranged some of her songs for a ten-piece string ensemble, and she's used these skills to broaden her instrumental palette on her second full-length album, 2022's As the Moon Rests, which adds string charts to the artful thunder that is her sonic template. Stylistically, As the Moon Rests isn't a radical shift from the sound of her debut, though it does find her refining her skills. The songs once again speak of dark longings and wrong turns, and not many people can make foreboding sound as grand as Williams does. Though this doesn't always feel like rock & roll, she knows how to use the building blocks of rock to craft her own epic-scale version of dynamic heaviness, and the roar of the guitars, the deep throb of the bass (courtesy of Thomas Williams, who also produced the set with her) and the balance of muscular force and carefully punctuated space in Geoff Holroyde's drumming all coheres into something spectacular. Add in the dramatic effect of Williams' string arrangements and the breathy force of her vocals and you get music that for sheer doomstruck majesty matches and often exceeds the impact of Forever Blue. (The craft of this material gets an assist from this music being recorded in a proper studio, rather than in the makeshift setup in Williams' apartment where the first album was made.) If As the Moon Rests ultimately isn't as impressive as Forever Blue, it's largely a matter of songwriting; the songs are consistently good, but lack a bit of the emotional force and presence of the debut, despite the excellence of her craft. That said, if Forever Blue was a great debut, As the Moon Rests is a very good follow-up, and leaves no doubt that A.A. Williams is a remarkable talent who is still honoring her singular vision.
As the Moon Rests Review
by Mark Deming