Natalie Mering who performs under the name Weyes Blood crafts a sound that is deeply rooted in American and British folk. She pulls and stretches the style at its fringes, like a sweater that’s just begun to unravel. She uses traditional instruments (guitar, piano, drums) set against electronics and tape effects, collages and the melodic qualities of delay, that bridge an older world of songcraft into the future, creating a synthesis between all the best of the 20th century and those that came before.
It’s not unintentional that Weyes Blood is a colloquialism referring to Flannery O’Connor’s first novel, though Mering doesn’t mince for words. Forget similes and metaphors: when you are confronted with lyrics like those found on “Some Winters” (“I’m as broken/as a woman can be”. . .“Go on, leave me for the last time”), lyrics that are so emotionally unflinching that they could pierce stone, the notion of any other interpretations seem trivial. And yet, you will try. As you sift through her words, you’ll feel something, and you’ll associate those feeling with past experiences that may cause you to associate them with something more, something that affects your own emotional state.
The name of the new Weyes Blood album is taken from a terrifying film called The Innocents, starring Deborah Kerr, released in 1961. It’s based on a play of the same name, which was also an adaptation of Henry James’ novella The Turn Of The Screw. On all but one of the songs on The Innocents, Mering’s voice is the dominant quality, tracked in multi-part harmonies with herself. There is the semblance of training in her voice to get her to where she can sing today, or any number of devices we as listeners impose upon her, because most of us are not privy to a vocalist of such rare choral purity. Then there is the truth of the words she sings on The Innocents, words so clear that they cannot be misinterpreted. A song like the melancholy ballad “Bad Magic” possesses infinite beauty in its sadness and how it releases those sentiments, but it’s even more beautiful in relief to all the other material on The Innocents. Never once does she repeat herself. Each song is a variant on the styles present in the record, and each is unmistakably her own.
Not dissimilar to the work of Henry James, Weyes Blood presents a series of musical interludes, free for you to interpret but poised to elicit a raw emotional response. Does her music sound haunted to you, then, because it evokes memories that trigger our own fears, or do you honestly believe that there is a ghost dictating her every turn? As Mering stated in a recent interview, her work’s “creepiness. . . is only as intentional as you think it is.” To her, this is the only form of expression: laid bare, deeply connected to the past, and miles away from anything else you’re likely to hear in music today.