Album Reviews

Avalon Emerson – & The Charm

(Another Dove) UK release date: 28 April 2023

A collaborative project that moves in a more tuneful, mellow direction, with songs that are endlessly inviting

Avalon Emerson & The Charm Sometimes a record does just what it says on the tin, and Avalon Emerson’s newest release is a fine example. & The Charm is a distinctly collaborative record, with Bullion, Hunter Lomard and Keivon Hobeheidar (The Charm, of course) coming along for the ride, and it’s decidedly less club-oriented than her previous work, focusing more on songcraft and Emerson’s ethereal vocals.

These tracks have a whimsical feel to them, at times borrowing from shoegaze and at other times disco, old-school electro and 2-step garage. The lyrics are poignant yet somehow nonchalant in their delivery, sounding as if they’ve come across an earworm by chance, particularly over the warm synth pads of Entombed In Ice (“there are some things they have done for themselves now / entombed in ice, the centre of the inferno”). Elsewhere on the album Astrology Poisoning delves into online culture and the endearing Karaoke Song contemplates the day-to-day life of an old flame.

The production is rubbery and idiosyncratic in classic Bullion style, whether it’s the noodling bass and woozy synth chords of A Vision or the Frankie Knuckles-style ostinatos of house excursion Dreamliner. None of these tracks are as busy as a record like Loop The Loop, however, as here the vocal performances take centre stage and the structures are too conventional to count as baroque pop. Perhaps the elements fuse most effectively on Hot Evening, featuring syncopated bass hits and nifty percussion accompany a blissful tune dwelling on the security of a lover (“So fall around me, you’re my hot evening / Roll in and out of home, away from home and back / And in a week, my dear, we’ll be together again”).

It’s only fitting that the last song would be the most ambitious, and sure enough A Dam Will Always Divide brings together big beat bombast and an intriguing sense of minimalism for a euphoric finale. The ride-heavy drum break makes its entrance and is joined by an angular bassline, but by the time the reverb-heavy vocals and distorted synth layers have built up for a few minutes any other elements are overpowered – all the while the track’s two chords repeat over and over hypnotically.

Stylistically Avalon Emerson was taking a risk on & The Charm, but with this engaging, surreal, infectious music it pays off massively.

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Avalon Emerson – & The Charm