Rachel Zeffira has already received plenty of attention for her debut album The Deserters from British media, as it’s been out in Europe for a few months. The Londoner also has some credibility as half of the experimental pop duo Cat’s Eyes and now North American audiences can appreciate why such a quiet album makes such a loud fuss.
It begins subtly, a solo piano staggers into a ghost singing of longing. The track goes from quiet to just a step above quiet, and repeats this formula with layers of instruments until they fall away and yield to the first pop song on the album, lead single “Here On In.”
These pop moments are the exception; Zeffira as a solo performer seems more interested in demonstrating her ability to manipulate multiple instruments and conduct, as the layers filling up your speakers come from an orchestra recorded at the Abbey Road studios in London.
One of the first songs she recorded for this album is a cover of My Bloody Valentine’s “To Here Knows When,” where she trims away the tangles of the original down to one hypnotically blooming flower.
Zeffira is classically trained, and spent time as a cathedral organist in Verona, Italy. It’s these two influences, classical music and My Bloody Valentine, that seem to frame this album’s sonic signature.
There have been a few notable releases in the past year from women melding classical with pop, including Austra and Julia Holter. What sets this one apart is its insistence on pretty, with simple lyrics and wonderfully calculated repetition. Rachel Zeffira will likely not be challenging your ears, but she will be pleasing them quite a bit.
The Deserters is out now on Paper Bag Records.