Ethel Cain, Raised In A Bubble, Stays Isolated For Her Art

By Danielle Chelosky

Listening to Ethel Cain’s songs can really feel imminent and intense, like being struck with a revelation or watching a large hurricane roll in. There’s a way that nothing would be the similar afterward. Hayden Silas Anhedönia — the eccentric artist who brings a rustic twang and a pointy, emo-rap edge to the indie-pop challenge — has a knack for stretching ephemeral moments of awe into giant sensory experiences. She takes that to the following degree with Preacher’s Daughter, which regardless of being her debut full-length, can’t be described as something however her opus. Over an hour lengthy, it’s as cinematic and visceral as a horror movie. The album focuses on a teenage runaway, an thought Anhedönia compares to Thelma & Louise as a result of it has an “all-American tale vibe with some fables and proverbs along the way,” she says over Zoom a few month earlier than the discharge.

Anhedönia’s artwork is an advanced reckoning. The 24-year-old grew up in a non secular household in Florida. Her dad was a deacon, and he or she and her siblings have been homeschooled. She got here out as homosexual at age 12, left to reside on her personal after turning 18, and commenced to simply accept her id as a transgender lady round 20. The music she started making throughout this era of self-discovery turned her alienation into energy. Wicca Phase Springs Eternal — the emo-rap challenge of Adam McIlwee, who based the music collective Goth Boi Clique that nurtured Lil Tracy and the late icon Lil Peep — stumbled upon her work and was instantly pulled in.

“I saw Ethel’s name on a Nicole Dollangager flyer in 2019 and decided to listen to her music, probably because I thought she had a good name,” McIlwee shares by way of e-mail. “I couldn’t believe how mature of an artist she seemed at such an early stage in her career — her voice and lyrics were already very good, and her branding and aesthetic already seemed to be fully formed, which is so rare for an artist with only a handful of songs.”

He launched her to fellow emo-rap prodigy Lil Aaron, who runs the label Hazheart Records, and he helped her out with releasing the music to a brand new viewers. Since then, she has launched two EPs, 2019’s Golden Age and final yr’s Inbred. Reverberating, spectral sounds and poetic lyricism imbued the collections with hypnotic atmospheres. Both featured two collaborators: Inbred invited Wicca Phase onto the sprawling eight-minute observe “God’s Country” and Lil Aaron on the coruscating ballad “Michelle Pfeiffer.” After being laid off from her job at a nail salon as a result of monetary hardships brought on by the pandemic, Anhedönia signed a document deal in August 2020 with Prescription Songs.

In the midst of all this, Anhedönia was constructing Preacher’s Daughter, which options nobody however herself. “I started working on it when I was like 19,” she says. “It seems like forever ago, but I would just kind of work on it here and there.” It’s set in 1991, when “my mom was the same age that I am now,” she explains. “I really wanted to explore ’90s nostalgia with her and work my way back up through the decades for the future albums as we go back up the family tree.” This album is part of a trilogy that follows three generations of ladies, however chronologically it’s not the primary — it’s the final, centering on the youngest of the bunch. “I’ve always had a love for the ’90s even though I was barely present for it. All the TVs in my house are old box TVs. I only watch VHS tapes and some DVDs. I think I’m just permanently stuck in the past because childhood is, you know, the purest time of your life.”

Helen Kirbo

“I remember being a kid and being very sheltered, very Christian, very closed off to the outside world. I remember I would go to my grandparents’ house and see a crime show on TV or I would see a scandalous movie poster on the side of the Movie Gallery,” she says. “We would drive through downtown and I remember those little glimpses into the real world through this very sheltered bubble that I was in. They were life-changing.” The Ethel Cain character is reclusive. Though she makes use of social media, her posts are cryptic and transient, by no means giving an excessive amount of of herself away. She refuses to maneuver to a metropolis, or actually anyplace past the agricultural South; as we Zoom, she sits in her Alabama residence, which she describes as “completely isolated.” But she nonetheless fantasizes about disappearing much more: “I really look forward to building a house somewhere out in the middle of nowhere, and I might not even put Wi-Fi in it,” she contemplates aloud.

This elusiveness heightens the affect of her music, lending the songs the feel of a prophecy.  It brings to thoughts the resonance of Neutral Milk Hotel’s 1998 masterwork In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, which was more and more cult-followed and adored as bandleader Jeff Mangum, who’s additionally a masterful storyteller, went into hiding afterward. She is unafraid to carve out house in music for herself and go all in with what she creates. It isn’t the form of music that’s simple to overlook. It lingers and haunts like a ghost. The sound is usually brooding and hallucinogenic; typically it’s flat-out scary, with bone-chilling instrumentals that sound like floating by the ether untethered, till Anhedönia’s shimmering vocals come again in as a guiding drive. Other occasions, like in “Sun Bleached Flies” or “American Teenager,” a blinding brightness soars by the songs amongst celebratory synths and bouncy rhythms. Epiphanies flicker inside vivid scenes and unbridled feelings whatever the sonic palette.

In grappling along with her Southern upbringing, she doesn’t hesitate to dig into the lows. Drugs, violence, and dying animate her lyrics, although not with out criticism. “I’ve been accused of being a white nationalist, racist, Republican, right-winger, redneck, the whole slew of it,” she says. But she is aware of her imaginative and prescient is heading in the right direction. “You have a lot of backward-thinking, ignorant people in the South, that’s very true,” she admits. “But you also have some of the most diverse cultures that never get any spotlight. I’m not trying to glorify the racist, violent aspects of the South that it’s known for. I want to tell the tales of people who are suffering from that, because there are a lot of people here who don’t agree with that and don’t believe in that and you never really hear about them.” She goals to dive into the “dark side of patriotism,” and the ability that the American dream holds over individuals even supposing it’s going to seemingly “do nothing but get you killed, leave a hole in your family, and put money in [the government’s] pocket,” she says.

But the misunderstanding and misconstruing of her artwork are inevitable, solely contributing to her drive to get additional off the grid. She’s persevering with to develop, cultivating a faithful fanbase — or, extra precisely talking, stanbase — on Twitter. She is on the aforementioned Prescription Songs, the main label based by disgraced producer Dr. Luke, about which she has mentioned: “I am completely oblivious to most things in the industry […] All I can say is I stay in my bubble and do my work.” Sacrifice was essential to convey Preacher’s Daughter to life, although, judging by the music, it’s shocking that it wasn’t one thing extra intense and ritualistic like human sacrifice. But it has all been paying off.

“Everything has its pros and cons,” she expounds. “I’m very neurotic about my vision. I really want it to be as close to what I see in my head as possible. Otherwise, you know, why bother trying? I’m gonna go for what my original vision was, and a lot of times that requires a lot of money. And the only way to make a lot of money as an artist is to become successful. So I just bit that bullet and was like, it’s going to be hard and it’s going to be stressful. But it’s all for the art.”

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