The New Mexico musician’s second album has no shouts, no sudden guitar outbursts, no startling tom thwacks. Instead, she layers arrangements so thick it feels like you could lie down in them.
The second solo album by the New Mexico musician Heather Trost is composed largely of overlapping synthesizers, sumptuous bands of them that glow like Rothko paintings. Out of this undulating field of sound, her cool voice emerges, often near-swallowed by the arrangements so that you don’t hear as much as overhear her. Trost has played violin in Beirut, and she’s one-half of the trad-folk duo A Hawk and a Hacksaw with her husband (and Neutral Milk Hotel drummer) Jeremy Barnes, but her solo work seems to arrive from someplace entirely separate—late-’90s Chicago, maybe, around the post-rock boom, circa Stereolab’s Emperor Tomato Ketchup.
There are no surface-piercing noises on Petrichor—no shouts, no sudden guitar outbursts, no startling tom thwacks. All of the edges are rounded, smooth, all the colors bright, evoking in their curves the kind modernist structures designed to lull rather than stimulate your senses—picture a long, empty airport terminal. The priority is the glossy, lulling surface, and listening to it occasionally replicates the pleasant dissociative tingle of transatlantic travel.
Trost sings evenly and with an appealing clarity but little emotion, letting her voice tangle with the various layers of sound until it’s just another signal on the switchboard. Over the two-note chime of opening track “Let It In,” she chants the title quietly in singsong thirds, sounding more like someone singing under their breath to themselves than someone trying to communicate with the outside world. The melody wanders in intriguingly wayward paths, but the song never reaches out its hand, despite the title. Like Kevin Parker, Trost seems to wander around inside the cavernous confines of her own music like its sole inhabitant, a pair of fat headphones insulating her from the clamor of the outside world.
Also like Parker, she has a stunning ear for arrangements, and on Petrichor she specializes in the kind that are so many layers deep it feels like you could lie down in them. With its buzzing psychedelic guitar tones and rolling drums, “Love It Grows” initially sounds like a pretty straightforward Jefferson Airplane homage. But Trost thickens the arrangement with so many moving parts that by the end it’s less song than labyrinth, containing three or four possible versions of itself. You could follow a different melody line each time through.
As she did on her first album, she offers a Harry Nilsson cover. On 2017’s Agistri, it was “Me and My Arrow,” from 1970’s The Point! Here, it is a rendition of “Jump Into the Fire,” from 1971’s Nilsson Schmilsson. “Jump Into the Fire” has been covered many times, and is a naturally boisterous song—the original is nearly overwhelmed by a solo from two drum kits that sounds like the sky has opened up and started raining shoes. Trost turns its wild-eyed attack into a sleepy pulse, Nilsson’s frantic vocal take into a jump-rope melody. In her version, the words “you’ll never be free” sound almost comforting, a reminder that there are truths more eternal than our own desires. Trost’s music radiates this sort of impersonal benevolence, and the further she retreats into her lush, impenetrable arrangements, the more you want to follow her.
Buy: Rough Trade