Solo artist Amy Griffiths has really hit the ground running with her solo project, Still Forever. In less than three years, she has learned how to craft music, all from scratch and self-taught. After debuting her take on darkwave to audiences at Foundations Festival in 2018 in Manchester, she has not stopped. This has very much got her noticed, making waves across many venues during live shows – most recently, streaming a performance live from her very own living room, amidst the current global pandemic
This path has lead to her second full-length album, Holocene Shift. At the record’s very core there’s a definite darkwave style that flows through it from beginning to end, having a bear-bones, stripped back approach. However, it’s definitely much more than that, as there’s a considerable amount of experimentation on display, being a lot more complex that it first leads the listener to believe. It’s as if Griffiths has taken old-school electronic music and dragged it kicking and screaming into the modern era, splicing it with a plethora of influences, taking it to strange but intriguing places.
It begins with “Perfect”, to a glitch-laden landscape, the slow synths reminiscent of early Nine Inch Nails. Then there’s an utterly haunting ambience that creeps through, capturing a moody aesthetic. It’s a minimal way to start the proceedings, the track having an air vulnerability to it. Things quickly switch up in “Underdose”, it’s speedy rhythm thrusting everything forward into high gear. This has some catchy hooks and glimmering keys entangled within the eerie aura. Interestingly, Griffiths’ vocals have been layered behind the instrumentation, blending into the background, giving it an intriguing dynamic. “Blood and Bone” starts unsuspectingly enough, capturing a similar essence to the previous track at first. Then there’s a sudden burst, as it gives way to a beat that is almost trip-hop in style, the song transforming into something more ominous. Comparatively, “Comes Alive” is a lot more ambient, capturing an otherworldly space-like feel. The drumbeat comes in sharp and erratically, to lush piano notes. “In All The Wrong Places” continues to bring in gorgeous piano, but this time with a frenetic beat that gives the music a real sense of urgency. Vocals are textured and mixed in such a way that it brings off a spooky, ghostly nature. The sexy, bassy melody and rhythm to “Smoke” is an addicting one, with some industrial tones within it’s hooks. Yet this comes with even more transition, as there is an underlying atmosphere that starts off being melancholy, evolving into something more sinister, coming off as almost oppressive at times.
Griffiths has come a long way in terms of musical prowess in such a short amount of time, and this makes what she has crafted all the more impressive.
We’re then treated to a slice of rich synthpop melodies and bleeps in “Can You Hear It”. As warped, sporadic electronic layers are blended in, it becomes psychedelic, complete with a schizophrenic vocal crescendo. “No Basis For Epiphany” has a bleakness to it. The steady pace, culminates alongside rumbling bass tones and soft, spooky interludes, as Griffiths delivers vocals that are filled with a despair. It becomes the most sombre moment of the album. The dark ambience contained in “Wait” has an incredibly retro feel to it, the chilling qualities capturing classic gothic tunes. However, this quickly becomes a song of two halves, as the chorus injects it with a momentum that ups the ante. “Beautiful Impossible” is familiar territory, being the second single from off the record. Even then, it still feels like there have been tweaks and additions here, sprucing it up for the full album. The layers built upon this are captivating, having a mystical feel to it. “I’d Miss The Stars” comes complete with aggressive, droning synths and a pounding beat. The embedded effects have machine-like qualities to them, blending seamlessly. Meanwhile vocal melodies echo in the background, adding an ethereal edge. “Forget You Now” brings the album to an mesmerising close. Layers calmly roll in, and are arranged beautifully. It’s as if walking within a dream, albeit a mournful one.
Griffiths has come a long way in terms of musical prowess in such a short amount of time, and this makes what she has crafted all the more impressive. Whilst it’s all still quite raw in terms of presentation, I find that this actually makes Holocene Shift more endearing. The raw nature gives the music a slight gritty edge, and the way in which it has been presented sonically, as well as emotionally, comes across more genuine as a result. This album goes to some deep and dark places, and this can truly be felt in the way it has all been conveyed.
Despite there being energetic moments, as well as dark themes contained within, I found listening to Holocene Shift a relaxing experience. The atmosphere is incredibly hypnotic, yet it oozes with a beautifully haunting mood, one that grips and enthrals, making this a stunning journey. Listening to the record is an experience, one that is memorable in many ways. It’s surprising, constantly throwing curveballs, taking unexpected and alluring shifts. It may be darkwave at heart, but in reality, it’s so much more than that.
Final Verdict: Holocene Shift shows a brilliant growth in musical prowess. In such a short space of time, we’ve been presented with a hauntingly beautiful darkwave album that has a raw essence, not only in terms of presentation, but also in it’s emotional depth. It has a gripping atmosphere from beginning to end.