The title of Miss Garrison‘s new album (Al Sol de Noche) evokes a journey through freezing northern seas, where the sun shines at midnight – that, or an expedition to a world very different from ours. Sometimes the album sounds like a sci-fi soundtrack, full of tension and mystery, but the lyrics tell the story of a profound but twilit relationship, one where neither person knows if they are rescued or hopelessly lost. Singer Fran Straub‘s quavering voice traverses a world of eerie, cold synth melodies and unfeeling post-punk beats. Lost and lonely, but warm with sensuality and emotion, it is like a solitary ship finding its way among towering icebergs.
Above all, she shows off a range and expressive control of her vocal instrument to rival her virtuosic skill as a drummer and percussionist. At some points, her voice takes on a quality similar to the haunting keening of Blonde Redhead‘s Kazu Makino; at others, she bellows like Karen O and trills like Kate Bush. Her desolate cry on the trip-hoppy “Navegante” recalls Beth Gibbons and Portishead. But most of the time, she sounds like Fran Straub, and that voice rings strong and clear.
Al Sol de Noche is the Santiago de Chile band’s first album since 2012, and it is evident they’ve grown as a group over the last four years. Overall, this release is more composed and coherent – not to mention catchy – than previous albums. It could be called their pop album, or maybe their mature album – but that doesn’t mean it’s predictable. Fans of the trio’s experimental side will encounter plenty of fascinating sounds and ideas on this trip (“Mamba” should win a Latin Grammy for Most Creative Use of Auto-Tune). They’ve traveled a long way from their chaotic electro-punk beginnings – without betraying them.
Maturity, in this case, means Al Sol de Noche has the exhilarating and satisfying sound of a band coming fully into their powers all at once. They sound as though they know precisely what they want to say and how to say it. It’s a little like witnessing a lunar eclipse in terms of the awe it inspires, which is another time when we encounter the sun at night. Of course, this didn’t really happen all at once. They clearly took their time with this album and we heard a little of this Miss Garrison on singles like “Land of Aloha,” though hindsight makes those tracks seem like preliminary sketches for this chillier, more nocturnal full-length.
The nicest thing about this album might be its completeness. Though the sounds of this album are varied – modes range from dub to dream pop – and it often feels longer than its 10 tracks would suggest, Al Sol de Noche never loses its way. The sound and lyrics work together at every turn to tell one story, making this the kind of album you can listen to repeatedly from start to finish. The story it tells is a thrilling adventure, one where love is a voyage across strange and frightening waters – or maybe skies.