The new Spellling double album The Turning Wheel marks a transition from Chrystia Cabral’s intense focus on synths, towards the coming of age of a talented, organized and fully-fledged music producer. Here, audiences encounter an artist undaunted by wrangling 31 musicians, orchestral lines and fitting the pieces of a complex puzzle together to create a cohesive project. While listening to the new album, taking in sound effects like fireworks and sirens, jazzy, winding piano riffs and Cabral’s pouty-mouthed, sweet-with-an-element-of-the-unhinged vocals, it’s clear that the record is supposed to be a story, a world created anew. However, there seems to be a wall between artist and audience, something stopping listeners from being fully immersed in the world-building that no doubt took many painstaking hours to create. This could be due to the presence of some filler tracks – perhaps the album didn’t really need to be a double.
There are a few great moments, including the first song; this trippy story called ‘Little Deer’ is refreshing and intriguing. A windy, wailing soundscape opens the album, pulling listeners down a fantastical rabbit hole. It feels like entering a new world, that’s for sure, like getting swept up in a convincing movie or musical, but when Cabral starts singing things take an even more interesting turn. The song’s strength lies in the beautiful and unexpected horn section, which acts as a wonderful foil to the Kate Bush-esque cooing and warbling.
The real winner is the title track, ‘Turning Wheel’. Background vocals create a swelling chorus from which Cabral’s unique voice strikes out, then blends with, then strikes out on her own again. It’s also the most catchy song, with a beat that is compulsively head-noddable.
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