While producer, singer, and multi-instrumentalist Bailey Miller’s debut full-length, Still Water, found great depth in the juxtaposition and interweaving of tactile instruments with otherworldly sounds, Miller’s
follow-up love is a dying follows a considerably more direct path to intention and meaning.
Not unlike Richard Youngs, Miller explores minimalist, meditative songwriting to great effect and in a way that seems to proceed as economically as possible from each song’s emotional germination. One has the sense that the work is necessary, that these songs serve fundamentally to process the realities of life and loss, that in the playing, Miller finds comfort and meaning.
Many of the songs on love is a dying are in fact first takes, recorded spontaneously in the very earliest stages of development. The record itself is therefore both seed and blossom. Miller says that these songs
“resisted being re-recorded” and that “once a song seemed to work its magic and help me to process an event or an emotion, I let that song be done.”
From one song to the next, Miller trades instruments. On “cul-de-sac,” she turns careful phrases over and over on an electric baritone guitar (which makes multiple appearances throughout the record). “You’re so
close / and I should be too / but nothing’s getting through to you.” There is a sense of emotional frustration but also an opening through acceptance: “But I’m out of hope / for being seen. / How do you
not see me? / The car pulls up to the cul-de-sac / and then it fades to black / then it fades to black.”
Not only are most of the songs on love is a dying first takes, but the record is sequenced in the order that the songs were written. It is a story emerging. The title, Miller says, is meant to express a powerful
dichotomy. Love is a kind of dying whether that love is a successful, loving relationship or if it means heartbreak and grief. In the former case, one experiences a dying of oneself and expectations of another,
while the latter brings painful loss.
As on her previous work, the focus here is Miller’s voice, spare and clear. It is a voice that disarms and communicates intensity largely through a power withheld, implied. Fans of Tiny Vipers and Cross
Record and Sybille Baer will find this quality familiar and easy to love, while all of Miller’s work and processes are shot through with a spiritual charge reminiscent of David Åhlen. Miller counts philosopher
Simone Weil among her most crucial influences and discerning listeners will certainly understand that Miller’s preoccupations with mortality and transfiguration are complex, even theological.
On “goldfinch,” Miller accompanies her crystal clear singing with only a gentle, looped recording of frogs singing and the effect is one of profound timelessness like Shirley Collins’ Crowlink or Elephant
Micah’s Genericana. And here “timelinessnes”s means not only having qualities from some time now past, but from any distant human future to come, including perhaps the very moment when one is hearing
this music for the first time. Miller’s depth and directness, her ability and willingness to experiment with processes sees to it that her musings will feel shimmeringly potent and intimate wherever and whenever there is a mind to wonder