“Behind steel bars / I’m still charmed,” floats through the spectral opening track of Delilah Holliday’s entrancing mixtape, Invaluable. It’s a vivid image conjured by the North Londoner, and one that reverberates thematically throughout the release in how Holliday presents worlds that can feel claustrophobic or chaotic whilst holding onto positive outlooks by melding reality with escapism: “I just want to live in this fantasy,” she intones on the atmospheric spoken word piece, ‘Looking Over My Shoulder’.
Sounds, scenes and sentiments of the 1990s course through the 13 tracks as Holliday draws influence from trip hop, trance and angular electronic structures to build immensely dynamic and eerie soundscapes. You can’t help but think of The KLF on as she sings, “Burn money to stay warm,” (‘Burn Money’) while the frosty synths scaling the vast breadth of ‘1000 Transformations’ feels like an extension of Olive’s 1997 hit ‘You’re Not Alone’. While those influences infiltrate Invaluable’s DNA, Holliday’s personality abounds, imparting an irresistible charm and character to the work.
Holliday is an endlessly engaging protagonist. At times, her resigned cadence evokes Tirzah as her vocals ground songs developed around floatier textures (‘Heaven’s Waiting Room’) and morph into unsettling, otherworldly beings on ‘Travelled’, a multi-faceted composition which heralds Björk’s rich synthesised symphonies. It’s a particularly enveloping moment on the mixtape, one that continuously impresses with each return. Elsewhere, ‘Liquid Pearl’ is another instance of Holliday effortlessly capturing the audience’s attention as it gradually gestates from a darker, more compact arrangement before dissolving into an ethereal art-pop movement until enjoying an energetic outro contrasted with the affecting refrain: “Your mother’s gone / She wouldn’t want to see you like this”. Tonally and lyrically, it demonstrates just how adept Holliday is at making an impression with strong (yet simple) foundations. While she has described the song as being inspired by her readings on global warming, she leaves room for the song to relate to a matriarchal figure, too. In this way, Holliday doesn’t impose herself in the lyrics, instead she leaves the door ajar for you to forge individual interpretations of her words.
In spite of the mixtape label which Invaluable wears, Holliday and co-producer Raphael Ninot have crafted a masterful body of work that flows seamlessly from start to finish.
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