Rachel Evans’s project submerges itself in an overhauled version of pastoralism, making a place for itself somewhere between the new age side of hypnagogic pop (as far as its character and the tone of the songs go), and German kosmische in terms of drones, duration (all of the cuts on this album last longer than twenty minutes) and its panoramic view. It’s tempting to understand this sort of pastoral quality as the result of a personal, even spiritual contact with the American landscape; particularly its wide-open horizons, which seem to extend infinitely both in the sky and on the land, forming a part of the collective psychology of American individualism. At the same time, although the surface seems serene and spiritual, it is a strange sort of pastoralism, equally comforting and supernatural. It reminds me of how series such as “The X Files” or “Twin Peaks” managed to get the most out of American landscapes to create a disturbing feeling. It is an effect similar to that achieved lately by Grouper and her parallel project Mirroring, which is another of the most disturbingly beautiful albums of 2012. It is as if these musicians were trying out an American reinterpretation of German romanticism, the kind that saw nature as an enormous hulk that is threatening and dominating, but at the same time irresistibly attractive. One has to wonder, in this sense, why in such difficult times as these, so many interesting albums are coming out that insist on giving us a view of very individual experiences, their gaze turned towards raw nature.
The sound of Motion Sickness of Time Travel is built out of layers, drones and small whirlpools of synths that suggest melodies. An especially distinctive feature is Evans’ own voice filtered and manipulated until it becomes another layer that joins and intertwines with the others. It creates a compact entity that, in reality, hides a wealth of nuances that become evident when you properly immerse yourself in the album (in this sense, I recommend turning up the volume when you listen to it). This use of the voice is something she shares with Julia Holter, Grouper, Laurel Halo and even Grimes - who are all experimenting with the use of the female voice in music as another instrument, submerged it its sound context, trying to blend it harmoniously with a music that seeks to recreate real or digital landscapes.
The main difference between this album and the previous ones is that here Rachel Evans has made a conscious effort to give her musical vision a more defined form, sharpening her skills in composition. Although her identifying features are clear in each and every one of her releases, it was with “Luminaries & Synastry” - released last year and for some, one of the key recordings of 2011 - that the artist considered cleaning up her sound and taking it to a higher level. This process has continued, culminating in this double album for Spectrum Spools; a subsidiary label of Editions Mego, headed by John Elliott (Emeralds) - a group whose music shares some of the same features as hers, as well as part of her sound palette, although her music never loses its own identity.
This album stands out, therefore, for its greater clarity. There are fewer grainy textures here, and less of a sensation of looking out at a blurry landscape. Instead we are offered music with a much clearer, more serene and contained vision that never epically explodes; increasing the feeling of space in her music, as if it were an Imax version of her previous albums.