Raised on the Isle of Man, English siblings Jack and Lily Wolter both started writing songs and playing in bands during their teens, but with a six-year age difference, more often separately than together. After Lily graduated from music school in Brighton, her older brother joined her there, and they formed Penelope Isles, eventually expanding the duo to a four-piece. Drawing on '90s and 2000s influences spanning lo-fi, jagged alt-rock, and dream pop, including experimental acts like Radiohead and Deerhunter, they fashioned an intriguing guitar-based song palette. Alternately intimate, densely atmospheric, dissonant, and richly harmonic, 2019's Until the Tide Creeps In marks their full-length debut. It begins with a mix of fuzz, jazzy chords, bounce, and mixed meters on opener "Chlorine." In keeping with a cover photo that shows their dad building a sandcastle, it's a summery tune ("Jump in without your clothes/And break your nose") led by Jack, who also produced the album. He heads into more somnambulant territory with the echoing "Not Talking," which adds glockenspiel to languid arpeggiated guitar and spacy vocals. It's fleshed out by occasional feedback, sustained synths, and light drums. Lily provides a softer-spoken lead on songs including the introspective "Looking for Me Eyes First." In addition to pensive lyrics like "I should hate the sky because I cannot reach the top," its acoustic guitar and gentle piano, vibraphone, and harp-type timbres offer a subtler approach without dissipating the atmosphere. That track is followed by the harsh noise of "Cut Your Hair," a song that heavily distorts drums as well as guitar. Much of the album is catchy without detracting from their careful attention to texture, a combination that's best illustrated on the seven-minute centerpiece, "Gnarbone." While there's a mercurial effect to Until the Tide Creeps In at least partly due to its songwriters writing separately, common tendencies, artful execution, and a melancholy dreaminess tie it all together, like a novel that's consistently compelling as it moves through multiple perspectives.
AllMusic Review by Marcy Donelson
feat: Cat Utting