Clara Engel – Sanguinaria (Digital, 2023)

No.5158

In the midst of a world where the effects of powerful men and their systems continue to plague society and the environment, Clara Engel’s latest album, Sanguinaria, challenges us to reflect on themes of power and authority and their impact on humanity and the natural world. This collection of songs takes inspiration from the toxic flower bloodroot and its medicinal use in Indigenous cultures, as well as the poetic language of religious texts. Engel’s music explores the idea of how to live without falling into despair or contributing further to the destruction of our planet. As an alternative music lover, I was immediately drawn to the album’s unique approach and couldn’t wait to dive into its complex themes.

Engel’s Sanguinaria draws its inspiration from Hildegard von Bingen’s piece “O Cruor Sanguinis/Cum Vox Sanguinis”, Captain Beefheart’s “My Human Gets Me Blues”, Skip James’ “I Would Rather Be A Little Catfish”, and “I Wish I Was A Mole In The Ground”, giving the album a unique blend of classical, blues, and folk influences. Engels’ voice is haunting and raw, expressing the emotion behind her lyrics with striking sincerity. The production of the album is stripped back, allowing the music to speak for itself, and the result is a collection of songs that feel incredibly intimate and personal.

One of the most notable themes on the album is Engel’s exploration of power and authority. Throughout the album, the artist reflects on how the pursuit of power and authority has driven the destruction of humanity and the natural world. This theme is most evident in the tracks “Toil and Waste”, “Cannibal”, and “Talons”, where Engel’s lyrics paint a bleak picture of a society consumed by greed and unable to escape the stains of authority.

At the same time, Sanguinaria also offers a glimmer of hope. In “The Sky Is Open”, Engel sings of a longing to become part of a more boundless and mysterious whole, rising above the struggles and limitations of human existence. This track, alongside “Tunnels”, with its beautiful and uplifting chorus, offer an ethereal respite from the rest of the album’s darker themes.

The album’s production and composition are also noteworthy. The sparse instrumentation is carefully arranged, with each instrument adding depth and texture to the songs without feeling cluttered. The use of string and wind instruments, such as the clarinet on “Cannibal”, adds a haunting quality to the music that perfectly complements Engel’s voice.

Overall, Clara Engel’s Sanguinaria is a deeply personal and thought-provoking album that explores themes of power and authority in the modern world. It is unique and raw—stripping back the clutter of modern mainstream music to showcase the artist’s beautiful voice and haunting compositions. The production of the album is an interesting yet risky approach, but Clara pulls it off, creating a soundscape that speaks to the emotions and thoughts of the listener. Engels’ latest album is a true gem that deserves the attention of alternative music lovers everywhere.


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There seems to be structure; but it’s obliterated by a mix that strangles the music when the vocalist comes in.gajoobzine.com/albums/rrope-vienna-noise-choir-split-vinyl-1994/

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