SPELLLING – ‘The Turning Wheel’ album review

SPELLLING (aka Bay Area-based artist, composer, teacher and mystic Chrystia Cabral) releases ‘The Turning Wheel’ – a collaborative double album that features appearances from 31 different musicians. The album covers themes from humanity to the future and divine love. The record is split into two halves – ‘Above’ and ‘Below’ with the former being more jubilant and dreamy, the latter more gothic in tone…

‘Little Deer’ provides a cinematic opening to the album with questions like ‘How do I feel, little deer?’ being delivered against an orchestal brand of alt-folk that immediately demands your attention. As the sound progresses into something more akin to a Bond theme, Chrystia reveals ‘The world is cruel and you’re no fool’. This is swiftly followed by the more dreamy ‘Always’ – a song that opens with the plea ‘Please don’t steal my heart, don’t make me start over again’ delivered in a soulful fashion. This then moves into a more cosmic brand of Let’s Eat Grandma-style pop-orientated electronica with the words ‘I want to live alone inside my fantasies’ leaving a significant impression. The gospel backing on ‘Turning Wheel’ captures the communal spirit that runs throughout this album, while ‘The Future’ is a soul-searching piece about love and what could happen next: ‘I live in the future’; ‘Hiding inside my mind in a tower no one will climb’.

‘Awaken’ opens with sparse and hypnotic guitar that casts a spell on you before Chrystia ups the tension and demands you to ‘Let your heart surrender, let your heart transform’. The combination of storytelling and theatrics brings to mind Amanda Palmer before the strings-laden ‘Emperor With an Egg’ offers a passionate account of a penguin’s journey: ‘He’s a bird, he’s a king, he can swim with his wings like an arrow’. Things get darker and slower – at least to begin with – on ‘Boys at School’ as Chrystia laments the fact ‘they never play by the rules’ before declaring ‘I don’t want to grow older’ against a prog-infused backdrop. ‘Legacy’ and ‘Queen of Wands’ are both brooding and emotive – the latter even dipping into some Kraftwerk-esque electro beats.

‘Magic Act’ has bluesy guitar solos running throughout its 5 and a half minutes, upping the intensity, while ‘Revolution’ opens with gorgeous piano and observations about getting older – ‘So long, my childish dreams’ – being in ‘Permanent revolution’ and shuffling off ‘this mortal coil’. The album closes with ‘Sweet Talk’, a slow-burner that opens with the words ‘I hear the music of words’ before heading into a darkly-tinged combination of glacial effects and the most powerful vocal performance.

‘The Turning Wheel’ takes you on a spinning journey through all kinds of stories, influences and genres… You never know what’s coming next and that’s something to be celebrated. Take this record for a spin…


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