Album of the Week: Girlpool’s experimental side pays off in What Chaos Is Imaginary (2019 LP)

With a career that already spans half a decade, the evolution of American indie duo, Girlpool, is second to none. For five years, Harmony Trividad and Cleo Tucker have composed music that captures your attention and implores you to listen by tugging at your heartstrings rather than invading your personal space and screaming in your face.

The year-by-year development of the pair is blatant when you listen to their three albums in succession. In earlier years, Before The World Was Big (2015) conveyed the sound of a raw garage band – using merely guitars and vocals with enough power to immediately establish a fan base. Powerplant (2017) bore deeper musical layers with the addition of drums and more complex harmonies. This week however, the release of What Chaos Is Imaginary will reveal further progression in their most refined and experimental record yet.

Whilst discussing the album, Trividad noted how some songs reflect her personal struggle with mental health, turning darker moments into something creative. The record is consistently magnetic in that way. Although no two songs are comparable, the album can be interpreted as a stream-of-consciousness: one seamless train of thought. Mental health covers a canvas of 1000 colours, thoughts and emotions. In a reflective approach, the album too displays a variety of genres and artistic musical techniques – including unconventional rhythms, the introduction of string instruments, electronic sound and synths.

“Where You Sink” uses irregular pauses that really pack a punch. It is completely captive; if you weren’t really listening before, you are now. These brief yet gripping moments of silence continue throughout the entire song at a walking pace, evoking a mindless sense of slow, chugging movement. Considering the theme of mental health, the rests come to represent not merely a musical pause, but a physical one too. Like heavily inhaling or holding your breath. The result is an intriguing listening experience. The music is unpredictable, you really don’t know where it’s going to take you, but you can feel the sense of journey the entire way through.

The record is a brew of diverse genres and seems to pay tribute to rock music of the past. “Minute In Your Mind” unveils as a 1970’s psychedelic track with its dreamy lyrics, flavoursome harmonies, distorted guitar melodies and drone of the keyboard throughout. “Swamp and Bay” beholds clear country influences, whilst “Chemical Freeze” begins with a grunge tone and evolves into more of an electronic soundscape. These assorted influences give the album an absorbing element of unpredictability. It’s so satisfying to hear the experimentation of new genres whilst the detectable character of Girlpool’s infancy still pours through.

Their close-knit voices and choral harmonies have always been a defining aspect of the duo’s music. Songs including “123” and “Before The World Was Big” from earlier years displayed a high-pitched schoolgirl quality to both of their voices. They blended almost identically together, at times making it near impossible to tell the two apart.

One overt change in the album is Cleo Tucker’s voice, who recently came out as non-binary/trans and has subsequently undergone hormone treatments. Dropping from a soprano to a tenor, a brand-new tier has been infused into their music. During “Hire” and “All Blacked Out” the tone of Tucker’s voice feels reminiscent of Elliott Smith, heightened further by the similar wistful, acoustic air the songs portray. Although the pitches now differ, the tone of their vocals remain remarkably similar and that captivating blend of the two is as intertwined as ever. From their opening track “Lucys” to the closing number “Roses”, their voices seem to lock together as faultlessly as two pieces of jigsaw.

What Chaos Is Imaginary is a creative demonstration of how far the band have come in the past five years. Their engrossing musical experimentation paired with the emotive content creates a memorable and relatable experience. It’s reflective music that will take you on a journey and give each individual listener a completely unique experience. Music that will encourage you to sit down, shut up, listen and frankly, just have a long, overdue think about the wonder of your life.

FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

What Chaos Is Imaginary will be released on February 1st, 2019.

Check out the band’s official website HERE.

Ruby Robinson

London-born pom who has found temporary residence in Melbourne. Gig, travel & rum enthusiast.