From its whispery, ethereal opener, “Contact,” Big Thief’s new album is permeated by an air of otherness. Adrianne Lenker’s voice is an aural phenomenon, Buck Meek’s guitar a beautiful enigma. U.F.O.F. is variegated, with black eyes, auburn hair, orange wind; “Orange is the color of my love / Fragile orange wind in the garden.” Lenker returns again and again to nature, to a feeling of transcendence. Animals populate the songs: ”Hound dogs [crow] at the stars above,” while “Pigeons fall like snowflakes at the border.” On “Strange,” a silkworm is iridescent, “beautiful and dead.” The Luna moth cries, like “Lime green tears / Through the fruit bat’s eyes.” A quote from Walden comes to mind: “At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be infinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.”
A slipstream of metaphors and what-ifs. There’s a sense of the ephemeral, the fleeting, the whole album like one soft exhalation.
Lenker is preoccupied with the relationship between the corporeal and the spectral; “To my UFO friend / Goodbye, goodbye / Like a seed in the wind / She’s taking up root in the sky” she coos on the album’s title-track. Lenker’s voice takes us to land, the sea, the sky, a slipstream of metaphors and what-ifs. There’s a sense of the ephemeral, the fleeting, the whole album like one soft exhalation. It’s a dreamy convalescence, comprising a concatenation of zephyr-light moments, drifting vocals and wisps of indelible guitar arpeggios, clement, supple, floating over James Krivchenia‘s delicate drumming. On first listen, U.F.O.F. can sound almost inconsequential, all of the quietude and gentleness swirling, eddying; but the dexterity of delicacy rewards close, introspective listening. It’s an album about nature and otherness, yes, but also emotion, memory, the fantastical. The drummer conjures sounds rather than pummeling them into existence, and Max Oleartchik’s bass is the epitome of congenial. The incongruous pairing of Lenker’s plaintive musings and Meek’s rougher guitar work defined the band’s previous albums, but here, everyone seems to have found serenity.