Alternative Jazz/Soul

Nailah Hunter

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Nailah Hunter’s new album, Lovegaze, is a bewitching testament to the resiliency of the natural world. The LA-based multi-instrumentalist and composer has been recording mystical folk and ambient-inspired music since she shared her debut single “Apple, Maple, Willow” in 2019. Following that, she has released a series of singles and two EPs on Leaving Records: Spells and most recently, Quietude. Now signed to Fat Possum, Lovegaze is Hunter’s debut full-length, an enthralling album that draws listeners into her enchanting cosmology.

As the daughter of a Belizean pastor, Hunter began her musical journey in the church where she played drums, guitar and sang in the choir. She continued on to study music at CalArts, where she studied vocal performance and was given her first harp lesson. Associating the instrument with fantasy, psychedelia, and dream worlds, Hunter became an immediate devotee, locking herself in a room for six hours a day to practice the instrument. 

To make Lovegaze, Hunter decamped to a small coastal city along the English Channel where she began recording demos with a borrowed celtic harp. After being introduced to London-based producer Cicely Goulder, Hunter returned to England a year later to further develop the songs. Her entrancing vocal performance on “Bleed” showcases the casual might of Hunter’s voice. Similarly, the mournful “Adorned” opens with Hunter’s disarming vocal performance as she sings to a dying world. Written alongside collaborator Ben Lukas Boysen, the emotionality in Hunter’s voice is audible. “I was crying when I recorded those vocals,” she says. “While I was writing Lovegaze, I was thinking about humanity’s propensity to destroy the things we love,” Hunter says. “I was thinking about ancient ruins and structures that once provided shelter but no longer do. There’s beauty to be found in ruins, too.”

That statement echoes the sensation of listening to Lovegaze, which feels eternal even as Hunter’s harp is accompanied by an electronic palette conjured in the studio with Goulder. On “Through the Din,” a hypnotic trip-hop backbeat is overlaid with Hunter’s Arthurian lyrics: “Through the din grows/ A vine, a vine, and a stone/ A vine, a vine, and a sword.”

Also linked to the album’s natural themes is the radiant instrumental “Cloudbreath” which Hunter composed after reading about a phenomenon called cloud iridescence. The whole album was written during a time of both global and personal strife for Hunter, and while Lovegaze captures some of that sense of distress, it’s also a willful reminder of the fortitude and beauty of Earth’s natural processes. As Hunter says: “Nature remains; we’re the passing thing.”

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Marijn Westerlaken



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