As far as I’m concerned, Hannah Lew–though she plays the bass–is first and foremost a vocal magician. Admittedly that’s because of her work with Grass Widow, the wondrously spooky San Francisco female trio that operates as a kind of tapestry, weaving all three of its members voices together. The result? A cloud of effortlessly harmonized soprano that rises up over post-punkish, surfer-rockish, guitar jangling. The voices are so effervescent that the harmony they make is weightless, and they’re so firmly interlocked that they sound like one big instrument.
They aren’t, though. Lew, who has been writing songs both on her own and with Grass Widow for years, began performing as Cold Beat in 2013 in order to develop on independent voice to run alongside her collaborative one. The full-length Cold Beat debut Over Me, while not quite our first taste of what Lew sounds like solo–she put out a two-song EP called Worms last November–is the first chance we’ve had to see her experiment with her full range as a songwriter.
While she was making it, Lew envisioned Over Me as a catharsis album tinged with paranoia. “Mirror,” the first single to be released, represents Cold Beat at the height of its over caffeinated anxiety, and the blood-letting doesn’t stop with high-energy freak outs. “Abandon,” coming squarely in the middle of the record, plunges us down low to new depths of bleak self-loathing, and then dissolves mid-track into an understated and moody instrumental breakdown. It’s worth noting, by the way, that while the album is unmistakably trauma-centric, I’m extrapolating each track’s particulars from the way the music sounds, not what the words are saying. Cold Beat’s lyrics, like Grass Widow’s, are often difficult to understand, beyond being ominous.
In fact, maybe the blurry lyrics have something to do with the sense of distance you can hear in Lew’s voice. She’s constantly far off on the horizon; she’s aloof in the most punk rock possible way. She soars like a flying superhero across the convulsing, repetitive music beneath her. Her voice is ethereal but bloodless, and about halfway through this album, it occurs to me that the lack of three voices on Over Me translates to a subtle lack of humanness. The aesthetic is aces, after all. The contrast of a faraway voice over a cleverly collaged mashup of retro and DIY sounds, the vague sense of anguish–all fantastically rendered.. The problem lies in that, though both vocals and music are compelling, one is forever floating above the other. Put more plainly: I like Over Me for its loveliness, but it doesn’t hook me by the guts.
Over Me is out on July 8th on Hannah Lew’s own label Crime On The Moon. Preorder your copy here! Check out the subtly bizarre video for “Mirror” below: