Lisel — Angels On The Slope (July 26, 2019) Pamela MÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃéndez ÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃâ Time (22 Feb 2019)♠      Lisel is the solo project of singer, producer, multi~instrumentalist, and experimental artist Eliza Bagg. Bagg is known as one half of the band Pavo Pavo, and has spent the last few years developing a prolific career in her own rite, from collaborating with indie and electronic acts like Helado Negro and Julianna Barwick, to honing her work as a classical singer, performing in avant~garde operas by Meredith Monk with the LA Philharmonic, to the work of John Zorn and Caroline Shaw.
♠      Lisel grew from Bagg’s desire to turn inwards as a way to get in touch with her own sense of authenticity. “I had found space in the classical world that made sense for me,” says Bagg, “but I realized I needed to make something that was truly mine, that sprung from my own voice.” This led to a year~long writing and recording process, with Bagg waking up every morning to spend time alone with just a microphone and her computer.
♠      “My main instrument is my voice, not a keyboard or a guitar, so I wanted it to be the genesis of every song,” she says. “I was trying to use the resources I had within me, within my body, to make something that feels true about the way we live our lives now, in 2019. That’s why I wanted to focus on my voice — I wanted each song to be literally made out of me.” And Bagg’s voice is a true marvel: intimate and warm while also impossibly crystalline and heavenly, which Pitchfork once compared to “a lovelorn alien reaching out from the farthest reaches of the galaxy.” It’s a worthy instrument from which to construct a world.
Location: Los Angeles, California
Format: Vinyl, LP, Limited Edition, Statue Marble
Album release: July 26, 2019
Record Label: Luminelle Recordings
Duration:     30:36
01 Ciphers   2:54
02 Digital Light Field   2:52
03 Hollowmaker   3:06
04 Vanity   2:41
05 Bloodletting   2:48
06 Hunker Down   2:38
07 GENUiNE   3:22
08 Sun and the Swarm   3:08
09 Mirage   3:32
10 This Time Tomorrow   3:35
AllMusic Review by Marcy Donelson; Score: ****
♠      Before making her debut as Lisel in 2019, Eliza Bagg had already built an enviable music resumé, having collaborated with such highly regarded avant~garde artists as Meredith Monk, John Zorn, Daniel Wohl, and Julianna Barwick. In the indie world, she sang and engineered for San Fermin, played strings for Kevin Morby and Simon Raymonde’s Lost Horizons, and co~led Brooklyn art~rock band Pavo Pavo. Familiar to fans of that group will be the soaring, wistful melodies of Bagg’s elegant voice, whose ethereal quality is front and center with Lisel in layered, organic, and distorted forms. Its particular use of vocal samples is indicative of the overall experimental tendencies on the self~produced Angels on the Slope, a title that evokes its otherworldly and off~balance qualities, including dissonance, spacy timbres, and glints of subtle, sculpted noise. While sparse, opener „Ciphers“ includes examples of all of the above, as does most of the album. Pulsing vocal samples are introduced in its first few seconds, cuing Bagg’s delicate, live soprano, drum machine, and eventual dissonant flute and impromptu~sounding percussion. The track then locks into radiant harmonies, another judiciously employed trait of the record. Quirkier, more syncopated tracks like „Vanity“ and „GENUiNE“ lighten the mood without being any less impressive. The latter combines shimmering synths, saxophone, electronic drums, and spontaneous percussion, with an electric guitar that echoes one of the main vocal hooks. Speaking of hooks, among the album’s catchier material are the synth~heavy „Mirage“ and standout „Hollowmaker,“ a bittersweet pop tune with more of those evocative harmonies. The arrangements are so meticulous and full of musical longing throughout Angels on the Slope that its 32~minute playing time seems just right, unfolding like a tone poem as much as short bursts of pop. Exquisite and fractured, it’s a memorable debut and a must for fans of Weyes Blood or any of Bagg’s prior indie projects.
by Sophie Kemp, JULY 27 2019. Score: 6.8
♠      The debut solo album from Pavo Pavo’s Eliza Bagg, a collection of pop songs with subtle experimental undertones, is her most outré release to date.
♠      In her work with the band Pavo Pavo, and as a frequent collaborator of artists like Julianna Barwick and Tim Hecker, Eliza Bagg writes complicated arrangements and string parts masked by doe~like melodies. She exerts god~tier control over her soprano, approaching her work with the dogged precision of serious classical training. The Los Angeles~based polymath brings all this fussy expertise to her debut solo record, Angels on the Slope, under the moniker Lisel. A collection of pop songs with subtle experimental undertones, it’s Bagg’s most outré release to date, albeit one overcrowded by gaudy production effects.
♠      On first listen, Angels on the Slope suggests a pop album seeped in the work of Björk and early Grimes. It’s hard not to notice the chintziness of the keyboards that serve as a backbone on “Hunker Down,” or the sweaty, mildly hypnotic drum machine loop. You could dance to it, or at least bop your head as it plays in the background of a fashionable loft party. Listen a few times more, and you’ll notice the frenetic bursts of saxophone and superfluous Auto~Tune accents. It’s certainly an interesting concept, to imbue straight~laced baroque pop with elements of dance music, but it makes for a convoluted way to bridge the world of freaky orchestral pop and the decidedly less freaky world of prefab synth music.
♠      “Digital Light Field” centers on Bagg’s spectacular voice, spun through yet another layer of Auto~Tune and immersed in naïve pop textures, plus a couple of densely arpeggiated synths. The song is apparently about the light emitted by cell phones, but the lyrics are muddled by enough distortion that you can’t really tell. Angels on the Slope is not a lyrics record, and it doesn’t have to be. The intrigue lies in the mechanics of the arrangements, and in Bagg’s ability to keep you on your toes, never allowing the apparent sheen of seriousness to become too comfortable. That’s not to say there aren’t bland moments: “Hollowmaker” drags, and the overproduced “Mirage” leans a little too hard into self~consciously weird ’80s pastiche, leaving Bagg sounding lost.
♠      Angels on the Slope can’t boast the kinds of surprises that make you jump out of your seat. It’s more about the joys of subtle dissonance, and the need to be unburdened by genre. On “Bloodletting,” the album’s centerpiece, Bagg allows herself to go entirely operatic. Her vocals are pristine, free of over~stylized production tricks. A piano opens like a Venus fly trap, while a saxophone’s upper registers flutter into its mouth; in the song’s soft corners, a synthesizer rotates with the precision of hands on an antique watch. On an otherwise flashy and cluttered record, “Bloodletting” is a moment of lucidity. Bagg has all of the skill and creativity to make beautiful music. It’s time for her to let go of the noise. ♠