Enduring the emotional abyss with breathtaking grace and grit on her debut album; A.A. Williams’ Forever Blue is a record that reveals more of its sublime poetry each time it’s listened to.
A classically trained cellist, pianist and multi-instrumentalist, Williams’ blending of post-rock and post-classical elements has a hypnotising quality, that slowly lulls its listeners into an exquisite fervour.
Recorded from her home studio in her North London flat, Forever Blue is a striking and polished rumination on feelings of isolation, autonomy, and the anxieties surrounding love and loss. It’s an aural balancing act between loud and quiet, something which Williams’ seems to effortlessly achieve on opening track “All I Asked For (Was To End It All)”. Her tentative vocals float above beguiling keys and strings, before heavier percussion and guitar riffs dominate in cinematic style during the final minute.
This impressive instinct for volume fluctuation is beautifully reflected once again on “Melt”. It’s a slow burning observation on self-autonomy, expertly fusing quieter moments with the fleshed out sounds of a full band. “I’m not made for this anyway” Williams confesses, but this modesty is betrayed by her clear talent for poignantly timed, powerful drop ins. “Love And Pain” and “Glimmer” (featuring vocals from Cult Of Luna’s Fredrik Kihlberg) are more stunning examples of this. Williams’ alluring string arrangements, brooding bass lines, and her notions of shadow and space on these tracks make for intensely purifying, emotionally elevating listening.
Dense, doomy guitars and the visceral screams of Johannes Persson (Cult Of Luna) break the lullaby-esque moments on “Fearless”, transforming the track into an unexpected battle cry. “Please let me go,” Williams repeats, remaining calm as chaos ensues in the closing minutes. There are less stormier moments on Forever Blue, and “Dirt” is one of the most affecting ones. It’s a captivating duet between Williams and Tom Fleming (ex-Wild Beasts), underscored by soft atmospheric guitars.
The yearning, rapturous sounds on “Wait” provide a blissful moment of catharsis, before the patient “I’m Fine” closes the album. “I’m so tired of explaining that I’m fine / But I’ll always try to find a place with you” Williams reveals with remarkable composure, as her vocals float over sanguine string arrangements which help to distract from the record’s melancholic feel.
Forever Blue feels less like an album title, and more like an ambiguous emotional state; combining moments of bliss with blitz-like volume changes to cauterize existing emotional wounds. A. A. Williams has allowed her listeners to exorcise difficult emotions on this record. She provides an aural tonic through her idiosyncratic, beautifully executed sounds.