There is something quite transcendent and utterly beautiful about Crystal Myslajek’s exquisite Cove. At times light and airy while at other times heavy and foreboding, the album feels like a true work of emotional and artistic depth. Sparse arrangements intertwine and coalesce like chamber music performed for just a handful of onlookers. Life and light springs between piano notes that hang in the air.
Crystal Myslajek has been a force in the Minneapolis underground music community for years, having made music in both IE and Brute Heart. Cove marks her first truly solo endeavor; writing, performing, and recording the album herself. Six tracks comprised of grand piano, layered vocals, and an occasional swath of synth, the album coincided with the birth of Myslajek’s second child. There’s an intimacy here that is quite striking. Crystal Myslajek invites us into her emotional world with each song. These are truly inspired pieces.
The six songs that comprise Cove have the feeling of staring out into a vast sea. Quiet, hypnotic, and overwhelming. That feeling of letting go from your thoughts and for a moment letting the vastness in. Myslajek has made songs for those moments when we realize there’s so much more to this world than just who we are and what we need and want. Both the insignificance of our existence and the need to not waste a single moment.
The album opens with title track “Cove”. At first listen I’m reminded Sufjan Stevens. The quaint, bedroom intimacy of the piano elicits private sessions sitting at the piano in a living room as coffee brews and the sun settles in the sky overhead. Electronic elements and the beautifully-layered vocals give the song a chamber pop quality. “Night Vision” is more melancholy, eliciting somber tones. But never without hope. This is a personal journey put to tape.
Besides feeling very personal and up close, Crystal Myslajek has made an album of great cinematic quality. Each track feels like a vignette, scoring some Midwestern story. The stories of Sherwood Anderson, Kurt Vonnegut, and Rick Moody come to mind. “Rama” very much has that cinematic quality to it, with even a little nod to Debussy’s “Clair de lune” close to the end. Deliberate or not, it works. “Lost Light” uses electronics to give it an otherworldly feel. It sounds like a concerto for space and time.
The album ends on the most experimental tracks, “Silver Moon”. Using voice and eloquent drones to lead us into piano chords, “Silver Moon” feels like a proper end to the journey we’ve taken. Refined experimentation, emotional depth, and cinematic scope make Cove an engaging and visceral listening experience.
I applaud Crystal Myslajek’s work here. She channels those emotions and experiences of motherhood into a heartfelt musical experience. Part piano vignettes, part art piece, and part musical experimentation, Cove works on so many levels. But the album never relinquishes its emotional center for the avante garde or for the sake of creativity. Cove holds us as its captive audience, and we don’t regret a single moment of it.
8.2 out of 10
Cove is available now via Moon Glyph Records. Buy it digitally or on limited edition cassette here.