Our Take: Marissa Nadler & Stephen Brodsky’s Beautiful, Haunting ‘Droneflower’

Marissa Nadler & Stephen Brodsky - Droneflower Cover Art

Our Rating

Both accomplished musicians in their own right, Marissa Nadler & Stephen Brodsky have put their usual musical sensibilities aside and created a deep and poignant series of songs exploring the darker side of love.

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Droneflower is a fusion of two very different worlds: On one hand, you have the romantic folk singer-songwriter background of Marissa Nadler, and on the other you have the prolific rock background of Stephen Brodsky. Yet despite the odds, they manage to hold a mirror up to each other and reflect their respective contrasts, embracing each other’s artistic reflection. In Droneflower (released April 26, 2019), they seamlessly coalesce and channel their musical lexicon into an emotional language they both understand. It feels like a kind of therapy, for them as well as the audience.

‘Droneflower’ – Marissa Nadler & Stephen Brodsky

The stark introduction of Brodsky’s simple piano melody in “Space Ghost I” aches with a profound melancholy. Personal and poignant, draped in shadow and memory. While Nadler’s voice drifts and floats in the background like a spectral siren, pure and unfiltered feelings pouring out of her like an open tap. “Space Ghost II” featured later in the record is a continuation of the journey down that black hole of raw emotion, laced with even more depth, gusto and energy than the original.

Brodsky brings out his electric guitar for a monumental appearance in “For the Sun“. The heavy and lazy guitar chords drawl and drag onwards as Nadler softly repeats “I wanna love you, but I don’t know how“.  She says she is “Waiting for the sun to fall” as if she longs for perpetual darkness. It’s like she is in love-hate relationship with light. Or like she has cultivated a garden and watched it blossom, but at the same time takes equal pleasure in watching the roses slowly wilt and die.

Making a horror movie soundtrack was one of their initial concept ideas for the collaboration. Although the record evolved into standalone music in its own right, you can hear traces of darkness and doom in it. Shadows that playfully dance around the light, as if the eternal dance between the two is sacred. In tracks like “Shades Apart” and the Morphine cover of “In Spite of Me” there is a sense of optimism lighting up the dark runway with their folky acoustic guitar chords and bright, hopeful lyrics. In “Estranged” the collaboration takes the Guns N Roses song much loved by Nadler and re-stitches it swathes of velvety vocals and shadowy silky strings.

Marissa Nadler & Stephen Brodsky © Ebru Yildiz

Marissa Nadler & Stephen Brodsky © Ebru Yildiz

Nadler’s voice is haunting, cinematic and delicate throughout, subtly soaked in reverb she sings like a widow in perpetual mourning. Brodsky also steps out of his comfort zone with a more laid-back acoustic performance in Droneflower than his metal guitarwork in Mutoid Man and Cave In. The record’s minimal production creates an ethereal and expansive backdrop for the two to embellish with their craft. There is also a sense of intimacy and space created from recording in home studios without the fanfare of production teams and extensive mastering.

At the record’s heart is a slow dance between dark and light, that is eclipsed by the light in the end. The silhouette it creates is an angel on fire. Nadler’s outstretched wings carrying her aloft over the gnawing maw of the abyss, as Brodsky guides her flight with his organic and elegant guitar work. In a forsaken place where light dares to tread, a dark and beautiful flower has fought for its right to bloom.

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Marissa Nadler & Stephen Brodsky - Droneflower Cover Art

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