Marissa Nadler officially staked her claim among the greats in 2014 with her sixth studio album July, where she made a strong departure from her indie folk roots and showcased an ability to juxtapose the sinister and surreal with the mundanities of everyday life.
Today Nadler unveils her new EP, Wrath of the Clouds via Sacred Bones and Bella Union. A companion project to her 2021 album Path of the Clouds, Wrath of the Clouds consists of of three songs from the vaults Nadler had written during her last album cycle and two covers. Throughout the EP, Nadler continues to make waves with her distinctive spectral acoustic compositions and ghostly croons evocative of a David Lynch dream sequence.
The opening track “Guns on the Sundeck,” is an ominous six-minute epic written from the perspective of the historic RMS Queen Mary, a British transatlantic ship that carried military personnel in World War II. The ship was purchased by Long Beach in 1967 and has served as a paranormal hotspot for California tourists ever since. Over sparse acoustic strumming and ambient strings, Nadler’s delivery is controlled and unwinding all at once as she laments, “Fall ’67 was her last hurrah, then they painted her like a movie star.” Then comes the knife-twisting refrain: “‘I miss the ocean,’ she said, ‘It’s nice in the sun, but I need a break from the dead people.’”
“Some Secret Existence,” chronicles the disappearance of Dottie Caylor, an agoraphobic woman who was dropped off by her controlling husband at the Pleasant Hill BART station in Walnut Creek and was never seen again. “Dottie never went outside/She hadn’t since that terrible July/Did she do it for revenge, or did she have some secret existence,” Nadler ponders over an uncoiling tunnel of ghostly synths and a simple finger-picked acoustic arrangement.
“All the Eclipses,” is a bone-chilling dream pop duet with Amber Webber from Black Mountain. While Nadler’s cover of the Alessi Brothers’ “Seabird” remains faithful to the original, her take on Sammi Smith’s “Saunders Ferry Lane” trades the Western twang and spare country drumming of the original for Nadler’s unearthly cadence and a piercing drum machine that could cut glass.
A self-confessed lover of true crime, Nadler urges the subjects of these stories to become agents of their own freedom, whether that be an old haunted vessel or a woman who vanished in 1985. In the great country tradition of women like Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton infusing stories of helplessness with agency and control, Nadler’s sympathetic songwriting and penchant for experimental ambience is what truly makes this EP shine.
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