There's a point during "No Shade In Shadow", one of the standout tracks on the new Kristin Hersh album, Possible Dust Clouds, out tomorrow on Fire Records, where the whole Kristin Hersh machine grinds-and-churns like the joints of the Tin Man as he stumbles down Yellow Brick Road. If the cut, like many here on this superb record, suggests a new path for this sonic explorer, it seems if Hersh is already on the scent, the ruminative and vaguely-sinister compositions here making up one of her best releases in years.
With multiple Throwing Muses alums and other players in tow (Fred Abong, David Narcizo, Rob Ahlers, and Chris Brady), Kristin here charts territory that juts up against that found on Led Zeppelin IV ("LAX", "Lethe"), and some other stretches that nod in the direction of those who've taken formative inspiration from Hersh herself like PJ Harvey ("Loudmouth"). If lots of Possible Dust Clouds sounds more direct and in-your-face, it's worth noting that this is her first release on Fire Records, and her first since the epic Wyatt At The Coyote Palace in 2016, reviewed by me here. Which is all to say that, something like a fresh start was all but inevitable.
While one might be tempted to fall back to praising "Gin" and "Lady Godiva" since they feel familiar to a long-time fan of Kristin, it's clear that Hersh is interested in stretching here, with the real standouts on Possible Dust Clouds remaining the woozy "Breathe In", and the hard "Tulum", a swampy slow-boil, all undulating bass-lines and caveman drum-thumps. If these numbers, and a few others here, signal Hersh's desire to try some new musical shadings, the lyrics throughout Possible Dust Clouds retain that Muses spark. And even with tempos slowed, and frenzy coiled, Hersh remains an amazing singer, lines like "sleeping with angels is no way to live" (from "No Shade in Shadow") purred as if foreshadowing something wonderful and terrible coming over the horizon.
A rough beast of a record, Possible Dust Clouds has a heavy creak about it that indicates something timeless being brought to life, the neo-primitive hooks here carrying forward Hersh speak-and-beats like Karloff lumbering as Frankenstein's monster. For old school fans of Kristin Hersh -- and are there any other kinds!?! -- Possible Dust Clouds reveals some new tricks in her kit, fresh sinister angles from which she can pursue, or stalk, her own muses.
Possible Dust Clouds is out tomorrow via Fire Records.
More details on Kristin Hersh via KristinHersh.com.
[Photo: Peter Mellekas]