Natural Phenomena

White Poppy

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Natural Phenomena Review

by Paul Simpson

Crystal Dorval of Vancouver, British Columbia refers to her work under the White Poppy moniker as "therapeutic pop," and her dreamy, tranquil songs are a perfect accompaniment to an afternoon lying in a warm, open field and releasing all tension. Her blissful compositions consist of layers of hazy guitar, ethereal vocals, and softly pounding electronic drums. Natural Phenomena is her second proper full-length for Not Not Fun, and the sixth White Poppy release overall, including three cassettes and a one-sided 7" single. This album differentiates itself from previous recordings by being less focused on vocals; many of the album's songs feature Dorval's celestial singing, but usually just as a textural element, with only three of them having discernable lyrics. It also seems less centered around dreaming and the subconscious, slightly turning toward more earthly concerns. There's less otherworldly echo than on the astounding Drifters Gold tape, and not as many of the driving rhythms of her self-titled LP. This isn't to say she's gone full-on ambient drone; these are still structured, melodic songs. Even at their most spaced-out, as on the planetarium-ready "Aurora," the songs are still framed by a constantly ebbing rhythmic pulse. Opener "Confusion" features languid yet still alert post-punk bass guitar, and brings back a hint of the Afro-pop influence that was present in Dorval's earlier project My Friend Wallis. Gorgeous ballad "Telepathic Love" feels like a fantastic hybrid of Julee Cruise and Cocteau Twins. "Mermaids" has a similarly stripped-down, aired-out '80s 4AD or Factory feel to it, with bright guitar lines rippling over the song's serene rhythm, bringing to mind Ducktails' early work. Relaxing and inviting, Natural Phenomena is one of Dorval's most rewarding works yet.

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