Following a 2016 debut album that scored millions of streams and was later name-checked by Billie Eilish as an influence, England's Låpsley (Holly Lapsley Fletcher) stepped away from the music industry. Relocating from London to Manchester, she engaged in connective activities such as volunteer work and training as a doula before feeling inspired to work on music again. After a year, she moved back to the capital, joined a choir, immersed herself in the classic 4AD output of the '80s (This Mortal Coil, Cocteau Twins), and began writing songs. Reportedly whittling down 100 of them to a manageable ten, the resulting Through Water retains the sleek, spacious, reflective sound she's known for while expanding textures. The water-themed album opens with wistful keyboard chords, wind effects, and spoken-word samples that are manipulated rhythmically. When the main sung melody eventually enters, the pitch and placement of her soul-inflected vocal tracks are also manipulated. Given the smooth-jazz quality of the song, the effect is subtly otherworldly but still soothing until flamboyant synth tones and beats including clattering percussion drop in halfway through the track, establishing the mid-tempo grooves and off-center arrangements that are maintained throughout the album. It's not entirely formulaic, as songs like "Ligne 3" and closer "Speaking of the End" have a contrastingly theatrical quality that borders on melancholy keyboard cabaret ("Letters scattered on the floor/Pictures thrown against the wall/Like I had an option/Too far to lose someone"). Elsewhere, the up-tempo, inclusive "Womxn" combines rumbling synth bass, claves, and a clarinet-like countermelody among its backing palette. While fans will be glad to know that Through Water generally adheres to the well-embraced, cushiony indie electronica of Long Way Home, its "2.0" quality makes it an even better entry point for the uninitiated.
AllMusic Review by Marcy Donelson