Piwa Brings the ‘Bass Down’ to Take Her Next Steps as an Artist

Photo Credit: Gracie Hammond Photography

A week-long bootcamp for The Voice was Piwa’s window to the music industry – and its cruelty. 

At age 17, the singer-songwriter, then known as Tapiwa, was in California with her mom for rounds of auditions after a successful submission tape for the Snapchat edition of the NBC singing competition garnered recognition from judges Miley Cyrus and Adam Levine. 

As part of a group told after a round of cuts that they were moving on to the national show, she and the other participants went home to prepare to leave their real lives behind for Hollywood. A few days later, after Piwa had coordinated her schedule with her high school to fit with the show’s timeline, the phone rang.

“I got a call from someone saying ‘Unfortunately, you’re unable to go to the next round at this time.’ I was just like, oh my gosh. It was so heartbreaking. Like you told me, you told me!” she recalls. “But it’s all good. The Voice, with all the auditions and meetings, taught me how the business side really works. It’s very much not an easy game. It’s gonna hurt sometimes, you’re not always gonna get that win.”

Luckily, Piwa didn’t take the missed opportunity to heart. “Them telling me that moment wasn’t my time on that show doesn’t mean I’m not a good singer or exclude me from opportunities after that,” she reconciles. “It’s about learning that things will come.”

While she didn’t make the final cut for the live show, the experience was a catalyst for her creativity upon her return home to Plano, Texas. Taking control, she built her presence on YouTube – crafting unique covers of songs from artists including Arctic Monkeys, Drake, and Hozier. Looking to pursue a degree applicable to her musical pursuits, her path then brought her to Columbia College Chicago.

Now 20, with several singles under her belt as the reinvigorated Piwa, she’s riding high on a wave of renewed artistic momentum. 

After a year of delay due to the pandemic, she’s returned with “Bass Down.” Released Friday, February 26, the new single is a seductive, slinky call for an inconsistent lover to keep up, with an undercurrent of reggae flavoring its rhythms. But the antagonist “lover,” according to the artist, is her own anxiety and fears threatening her work. “It’s basically saying, ‘Step up.’ You’re here to show what you can do; what’s up,” she describes. 

Show up, she did. Showcasing both her powerful low ends and playful higher register, her vocal experimentation is arguably her biggest evolution compared to previous tracks “Love Letters,” “Hundreds” and “Wave.”

“I really feel like [‘Bass Down’] is that song for me,” Piwa continues. “I’m here now. I took a whole year to just fucking work. I want to put myself out there for people to hear.” 

As far as how it was written, she says the verse came in a freestyle as she sang over the instrumental she received one night from producer Sam Pontililo. To his surprise, she emailed him a quick vocal recording in the early hours of the following morning. It all came together with ease, she remembers, and was unlike any process the typically meticulous Piwa had been part of. “It was so nice to have that moment where it just flows,” she laughs, extending the roundness of the “o” sound. “It was really exciting.”

Most inspired lyrically by her own journey, her songs serve as confident reminders of the power of perseverance and preservation. “Love Letters,” the first song she ever produced, details the ways we try to rationalize arguments, red flags and our post-break up peace in intimate relationships, while “Hundreds” doubles-down on affirmations and self-actualization. The atmosphere created by “Wave,” a minimalist, afro-futuristic slow-burner of a R&B track, feels as if you’re being entranced to be kept in her witch’s bottle. 

At just three months old, Piwa emigrated from Zimbabwe to the United States with her parents and older sister. Settling in the Bronx for eight years before moving to Texas, she got involved in the performing arts in middle school and caught the bug quickly. Though she sang in the church choir, she was in and out of school singing groups and orchestra, due to not being able to afford her school’s rental fee for instruments. Her phone, as for most young people, became the center of her world. Different apps served as resources for her do-it-yourself approach, providing the tools she needed to expand her musical education.

“When I was younger, I just wanted to be able to record videos for myself. I started seeing I could be capable of doing more. I had all these big sounds and ideas in my head – I wanted to be able to make those ideas come to life,” the singer says of those early phone app experiments. “It wasn’t pressure; it’s that pull that just grabs you and makes you really want to make music.” 

Then, there was GarageBand. Tinkering with the free version of the app during her spare time, she learned how to build a song from the base beat and up. She’s since graduated to analog instruments, but has a soft spot for songs created entirely digitally. “Love Letters,” she cites – referring to the song as her “baby” – was made solely using her cellphone. 

“It really got me into wanting to do that for myself, and learn and educate myself,” Piwa says excitedly. “Then it was like, I can actually learn with the chance I have of going to college. I can do this and put real time into trying to do what I actually feel like I’m supposed to do.” 

While her family persisted with their own visions for her life (being a doctor, mainly) despite being supportive of her talent show appearances and smaller, local performances for the public, she eventually made headway. Her mom, especially, became her number one fan, helping embolden that soulful, clever voice that brims with assuredness. 

“We’ve had our battles,” she confesses. “She really came through. My mom was like ‘If you want to do this, you do it. Put yourself into it and show them. Tell them, you’ve done this before.'” 

As for many up-and-coming artists, Piwa’s work never stops. After the pandemic shut down music venues, recording studios, festivals and more lifelines for travelling musicians and industry workers, Piwa – like countless others – lost what could have been breakthrough gigs at South by Southwest in Austin and at Chicago’s Aragon Ballroom. But she hopes the buzz around “Bass Down” will entice more listeners to visit past projects and keep an eye on her and her still-in-the-works EP, while opening doors to new opportunities in 2021. 

“[The pandemic shutdown] opened up a lot of time for everyone to just sit there in their own space and their own company, and it changed a lot for me as far as what I’d hoped for 2020 and what I envisioned would be happening now,” she says. “I know I want my music to be my force. I want to show my force through my music. That’s the main point I grasped out of the fear and sadness of 2020. Now, as I go through this forever process, I feel like I’ve got a good grasp on my game plan.”

Follow Piwa on Instagram and Facebook for ongoing updates.

Roberto and Risky Patterns Reunite for ‘Invierno’ EP

Photo Credit: Carter Hawks

Cincinnati rapper Roberto and South Texas-based producer Risky Patterns returned last week with their latest joint offering, Invierno, which Roberto will celebrate with a livestream release party via Zoom on Saturday, March 6. The six-song EP marks the second installment in the duo’s seasonal-themed series, after 2020’s Verano (Spanish for “summer;” with Invierno, which means winter, out now, the pair will next release Primavera in spring and Otoño in fall). They first teamed up on last year’s Many Truths EP, when Risky Patterns was still using the moniker Matador. 

For Invierno, Roberto and Risky Patterns continue to build on to the chemistry that they initiated with Many Truths and serve up a new Southern hip hop sound. The pair started writing songs for the project and testing them out for live audiences while touring in Texas with Devin Burgess at the beginning of 2020, before the pandemic. 

“[Risky Patterns] sent me the first beat I ever rapped on when I was 16. So, it kind of built itself into a relationship to the point where I was grabbing beats off his Soundcloud and then we ended up touring together,” Roberto tells Audiofemme. “When we were touring, which is the only time we’ve ever been together in person, we were working on this project.”

Invierno has the audible ease of a project written pre-Coronavirus and the wild stories that can only be captured while on the road. Each track is named after a significant destination in the duo’s Texas travels, such as the desolate “Exit 51,” where Roberto, Risky Patterns and Devin got stranded after running out of gas.

Roberto, who hails from Texas but is based in Cincinnati, said he also felt a special kind of grounding from creating the EP in his home state. “When I was in Texas, shit just kept coming to me,” he recalls. “I don’t know if it was my ancestors or what… but I was really just doing what I felt like I was being told.”

The project still feels a heavy Queen City presence, though, as the rapper calls on several of his “best friends” for features. Invierno sees welcomed assists from local artists Jay Hill, Ladi Tajo and GrandAce, as well as out-of-towners Na$ty and Miles Powers. 

“This project is new to me in that way,” says Roberto. “There’s artists on there that I really admire. This project is reflective of my mission statement as an artist, which is to connect my roots to my upbringing between Texas and Ohio. Everybody here that I know has [a] Risky Patterns [beat] in their head somewhere, and a lot of people of over here I knew would sound good on his beats.”

The collaborative chemistry is especially felt on “sharpstown usa” – the electrifying result of Roberto’s years-long friendship with Jay Hill and Ladi Tajo. “That song makes me so happy,” he says. “Back in the early days, we would all pull up to any show in Cincinnati together. If I did a show, it would be Ladi Tajo and [Jay Hill’s group] Patterns of Chaos with me. Their song ‘Sleep Paralysis’ that they did together; I mixed that song. I’m really glad that chemistry got to be heard.”

2020 was an extremely prolific year for Roberto; in addition to two EPs and some singles with Risky Patterns, he also released purpan collab Happy Birthday, his “face/off” single with Khari (which includes b-side “escape”) and some stand-alone singles as well. “Last year, I dropped like six times,” Roberto says. “This year I’m focusing on making my drops mean more, rather than doing them more often. I didn’t take a lot of time out for burnout and things like that. I think if I take some time for rest, it’ll make more sense on my end.”

Roberto plans to head back to Texas to self-quarantine with Risky Patterns to “knock out” Primavera and Otoño, which he thinks will be finished “in like two weeks.” When asked if he and Risky Patterns will ever swap rapper and producer roles for a project, he responded, “Yes, I’m definitely looking forward to that.” This summer, Roberto will actually release his first-ever self-produced project.

“All the music that you hear from the two of us, he’s produced [and] I’ve written, mixed and mastered, but people don’t know that I can also produce and he can rap,” he explains. “We both do both things, but when we first met, we were very far into one way. Now, we’ve been getting into both crafts, so it’s a growing relationship in a musical sense.” 

Follow Roberto on Instagram for ongoing updates.

PREMIERE: Ume “The Center”

Ume by Chad Kamenshine

In the modern world, women are often pitted against one another for a few spots on the proverbial hamster wheel. Ume’s latest video for “The Center” explores the relationship women have to each other, how they can reject the current system and build a whole new order.

With the Austin band’s sound relying heavily on driving guitars, lead singer and guitarist Lauren Larson doesn’t hold back when it comes to playing music, even when it seemed life was about to derail her career. The band has become well known for its intense live shows, with bassist Eric Larson and drummer Aaron Perez anchoring Larson’s voice as it soars over her intricate guitar rhythms, the band working in well-oiled tandem. “The Center” is one of the band’s most taut songs, its tension an accurate representation of the band’s 2018 release Other Nature, a heart-thumping tight rope walk from one state of being to the next.

The video’s director Vanessa Pla describes the boxing match between two women as “a healthy competitive game, where a woman challenges her opponent – yet not in a malicious sense – but just by doing her best. Even if her opponent falls.. in the end she is there to lift her up and elevate her.” Pla says it’s a metaphor for a way forward: “Women have to start with each other when it comes to rising in this world, and although we are all set to carve out our own paths, we should inspire each other to keep fighting, because we are all fighting the same fight.”

Watch Audiofemme’s exclusive stream of “The Center” and read our interview with Lauren Larson below.

AF: Tell us about the first song you ever wrote. Were the mechanics of writing it very different from how you approach music today?

LL: I’ve always started with an intuitive riff, something spontaneous and not overthought. I still start most songs that way. Though in the very first Ume songs, I sometimes made up lyrics live on the spot during a performance (scary!) or impromptu in the studio. It was very visceral and raw. I spend a lot more time with the lyrics and overall song structure now. But the songs themselves still arise from the gut or heart, not some sense of theory.

AF: After reading quite a few descriptions, I had to find some live video of you performing. The energy you bring to the stage is almost overwhelming at times, the crowd fully invested, totally with you to the end. Do audiences normally get on the bandwagon pretty quickly? Have you ever had to win over a crowd? And if you did… how’d you do it?

LL: With Ume, we’ve always performed like every show is our last. I hold nothing back. I can’t perform any other way. But for many tours, the audience had no idea who we were. I would be heckled and harassed before I even played a note. I would even sometimes be denied entry onto the stage or denied access backstage, because it was for “band-members only.” I’ve been told to turn down before I even plugged in. So, yeah, we’ve had to win over audiences, especially when opening for bigger bands like Smashing Pumpkins, Jane’s Addiction, Blondie, Cage the Elephant. But I love to watch people’s reactions shift. I love to shatter their expectations. I remember opening a sold-out show with Circa Survive, getting a lot of stink eye during the beginning of the set, and by the end of the show when I smashed a guitar, the audience was freaking out as much as we were. Though whether it’s five people there or 5,000, we’ve always done the same thing – lay everything on the line with every performance. It’s not always about perfection, but passion, and I think most people appreciate that.

AF: You picked up a guitar at age 12. You’ve said that you had to make a lot of adjustments when it came to guitar playing because of your smaller hand size. What were some of the tricks you used to become comfortable playing?

LL: I’m a self-taught guitar player without any “real” training. I picked up my brother’s guitar to learn a few Nirvana songs. But even some basic chords were difficult at first, so I started experimenting with making up alternate tunings. I still use many made-up or alternate tunings. I’ve studied improving my technique over the years, especially after dealing with tendonitis. Stretching, practicing in the correct position, strengthening my posture have all helped me become a better player.

AF: You’ve worked with the nonprofit organization Girls Rock for many years now. What advice do you give young women who are learning to play an instrument, but struggle with stage fright?

LL: Have fun, let go, and remember there are no rules to how you should sound or how you should play! Find your own voice. I am awkward and shy off-stage, and I was extremely nervous about approaching a microphone when I first started. So I started screaming when I first decided to try out “singing.” I’ve used a “screaming” exercise with young girls terrified to use their voices. We start off softly, and get louder and louder, until they let go and let their voices break free of the fear. So many girls and women have never heard how strong their voice can be. Knowing you deserve to be heard can be life-changing.

AF: Tell us about “The Center” – how did the song come into being?

LL: This is from a collection of songs I wrote after the birth of my daughter. It was a time when I had to face and overcome my fears, fight through those voices saying I couldn’t do music anymore, accept change and find my strength. This is a song about inner and outer battles.

We build the song into a peak at the end with the lyrics, “No more weakness. No more weakness. War is weakness. No more weakness…” It’s a reminder that, as my friend said to me the other day, wisdom and strength take many different forms. Sometimes that means fighting through. Sometimes that means surrendering, especially surrendering to love. I’m facing a small “battle” now, as I just had to back out of a big concert at seven months pregnant. I had a bad fall that landed me in the hospital last week. I had to accept that sometimes the stronger thing to do is not “fight through,” but slow down, accept the moment and take care of ourselves.

AF: The video features two women fighting at a gym. Where did the idea for the video come from and how does it relate to your original intent for the song?

LL: Director Vanessa Pla had been working through this concept for a while and we decided to take “The Center” to the center of the ring. To me, the main character is not only freeing herself from stereotypical gender roles, but she’s also fighting through her own fears. It’s ultimately a video about empowerment and women supporting women. Even though the characters are fighting in the ring, they come together in the end as the one who has fallen is uplifted by the other fighter. There are many ways to find our strength – sometimes that means surrendering, sometimes it means supporting another, and sometimes it means standing back up and fighting through again.

AF: What music do you currently have spinning at home?

LL: I’ve been digging Julien Baker for a while, a new artist out of Austin named Jackie Venson, and the new solo project from KAZU of Blonde Redhead.

AF: How do you want people to feel when they leave an Ume show?

LL: Eric and I remember being young teens in the front row watching our favorites bands like Fugazi and Sonic Youth. I remember saying, “I want to make people feel this way. I want to make music too. Could I do that?” The best compliments I get are from people who say watching our performance inspired them to do something they were afraid to do.

UME’s latest album Other Nature is out now via Modern Outsider.

INTERVIEW: Jackie Venson Stands Her Ground With “Never Say Die”

Jackie Venson AudioFemme

Jackie Venson AudioFemme

Jackie Venson’s music feels good. Its laid back vibe mirrors Austin, Texas, the city she calls home. In recent years however, Venson’s music, like many artists living in the era of Trump, has taken on a bit more of an edge, her lyrics tackling the shift in American culture.

“‘Never Say Die’ is a song about sticking to my guns no matter the resistance I receive, and finding power in standing my ground where others might have found isolation and bitterness. This project is me stepping out of my comfort zone, using dancers and electronic instruments as opposed to my usual rock band instrumentation,” Venson says of her latest track. The single is straightforward; it doesn’t feature Venson’s signature sweeping guitar solos (something she now keeps for live performance). Instead it gives the listener just enough Jackie to leave you wanting more, an important shift for today’s artists who rely more on tours than Spotify listens.

We spoke with Jackie about her recent collaboration with Austin producer Michael Ramos and how she picked up the guitar in the first place. Read our interview and watch the video for “Never Say Die” below.

AF: Your father was a professional musician and you were taught piano as a child. What kind of music did you gravitate to early on?

Jackie Venson: I played classical music on the piano and I love Broadway and Disney. I think that’s what inspired my current day genre hopping, the drastic differences in what I listened to as a child.

AF: What’s your favorite Disney score to play?

JV: I never really play Disney songs these days but if I had to choose it’s a close call between “Circle of Life” and “Colors of the Wind.”

AF: You were born and raised in Austin, Texas. What was the music scene like there when you were a girl? I know it’s grown a lot recently.

JV: The music scene has pretty much always been consistently bumpin’. Some will claim it used to be more but [to me] it’s alive now as much as it has always been. There are artists moving here all the time, making it work and keeping the jams going. We do have affordability issues with the cost of living going up but there are a lot of great organizations in town fighting for artists.

AF: Do you think the changes are for the better? Or is that yet to be seen?

JV: I suppose it’s yet to be seen. The music is still thriving in Austin so I feel that is an indicator that things are well. Sure, the town used to be a little more laid back and affordable, however with time comes growth which is somewhat unavoidable. I also believe the wonderful organizations that spawned from this growth and support for the arts is simply amazing.

AF: I read that you picked up guitar after graduating from Berklee College of Music. Were you studying classical piano in school?

JV: Not exactly. I studied classical piano while growing up, but when I got to Berklee I dove into the production, songwriting, and arranging side of things. I got to study the nuts and bolts of what makes music and recordings what they are to us humans as a collective and ever changing culture. It was fascinating and really deepened my overall understanding.

AF: What made you jump ship?

JV: I wanted to perform and write but I was tired of the piano and the types of songs I wrote with it. I wanted to expand my sound pallet.

AF: In an interview this year with Shutter16, you discussed working with Austin producer Michael Ramos and how he opened your eyes to the differences between live performance and recording. I can definitely hear that influence on the Transcends EP and on your new single “Never Gonna Say Die.” Can you tell us a bit about the writing and recording process for this new song?

JV: I knew I wanted a minimalistic song, something that was just a beat and a melody, and I knew I wanted it to be dynamic as well. I think silence and space in music is incredibly powerful so “Never Say Die” was my anthem to that. I also wanted a strong song that carried a stark message about my journey.

AF: Transcends has so many beautiful messages in it, but I particularly love the vibe on “Fight,” where you sing “All of us are one, my fight is your fight.” There is so much turmoil around us, but you approach changing the world by changing yourself. How do you keep the positivity in your music, even when you’re tackling tough subjects?

JV: I can always see the silver lining and even when I can’t, the wonderful people that support me in my life help me to see it. There’s always positivity to be found and even when I’m feeling down I know that folks like me have to continue to fight and uphold positivity. No matter what is happening or how much control I have over the situation, I know I can always do my part.

AF: You’ve performed in many places (Germany, Poland, Czech Republic and Finland), and you recently toured with Gary Clark Jr. Have you noticed different responses from crowds? I want to assume the crowds are more rowdy and boisterous in Texas.

JV: Oh no, the crowds are never predictable by location. I’ve had apathetic chatty crowds or super pumped crowds in all different places. It’s literally impossible to know what a crowd is going to be like until I’m at the gig, plugged in, and strike the first chord.

AF: Your Spotify page says that you have 12 planned singles for 2018! What can we expect in the other half of this year?

JV: 6 more singles! Haha. For August, the single will be a private release for the JV Squad Facebook group and newsletter only, so be sure to subscribe to catch that one. Otherwise, I have some new music coming up and I can’t wait for y’all to hear it.

AF: What musicians inspire you nowadays?

JV: SZA, Kendrick Lamar, Hozier for sure. I really like the individuality they all bring to the table and I love that they are finding success being themselves in today’s crazy, information overload world.

AF: What is the best advice you’ve ever been given as an artist?

JV: My father told me “if the opportunity came around once it’ll come around again.” He also told me to “stick to my guns.” Both of these I use in my daily life.

Be sure to sign up for Jackie’s newsletter to receive a free digital download of B-Sides, exclusive tracks downloads, and updates on her touring schedule!

LIVE REVIEW: Blue Healer at Rockwood Music Hall


Set the scene in your mind: An intimate setting at Rockwood Music Hall complete with dimmed lights, a hazy atmosphere, and a collection of swooning, folky, country-esque music courtesy of Blue Healer. Can you feel the relaxation and good vibes? Great. Then you now understand exactly what it was like seeing them perform last Wednesday.


It was a mixture of synths and keys as well as heavy basslines and distorted upright bass. At times, the music had an older glam rock feel, surreal and ethereal, reverberating throughout your mind. Then it would transform to a folk, country-esque show complete with energetic synths — pop folk, if you will. A lot of their songs called to mind tracks of Melee and The Black Keys.


The trio hailing from Austin recently released their debut self-titled album and played an array of tracks from it (and also tracks not on it). They played their popular single “30,000 Feet,” which was full of airy vocals from frontman and bassist David Beck and otherworldly synths from keyboardist Bryan Mammel. They also slowed things down when they played “Only the Rain,” with synths that perfectly emphasized its gentle nature. When they played “Empty Bottles” is when I really felt The Black Keys vibes from them (never a bad thing).

Their last song, “Bad Weather,” was an empowering, anthemic note to end on. But fortunately, it also wasn’t quite the end, as the crowd pretty much begged for an encore, and Blue Healer happily obliged. So their real last track, “Like Diamonds,” ended up being a way more fun way to go out. It was energetic and upbeat, complemented by crashing cymbals and a big finale drumline as well as contagious energy from the band who genuinely looked like they were having the time of their life.

As a show I went into hardly knowing the band, I was pleasantly surprised and had a great time. It also helps when the band is skilled at their instruments and loves what they’re doing, too.



The collective of musical oddities and mystery known to Earthlings as GLOVES have announced an album release for 3/3/15 entitled Get It Together. GLOVES self-classifies their sound as “Anti-Garage,” elaborating with the description: “the use of Rock & Roll instrumentation to produce music that is not based on popular American/British Classic Rock sensibilities.”

Translation: This shit’s like nothing you’ve ever heard.

Dressed uniformly in black turtlenecks and gold chains like a well-tailored early hip-hop crew, the quartet is composed of Salem Abukhalil, Ben Fisseler, Colton R. May and Ajit D’Brass. Allowing their protests of anti-classic rock; prominent funk stylizations are present such as a head thrashing electric bass and some pretty mean drums.

GLOVES was formed in 2013 in Austin, Texas. Their mantra-infused album title Get It Together fits like a, well, glove. The album whip brains out of fidgety angst into higher conscious cream with a repetitive vocals and in-your-face beats with the power of a voodoo ceremony. That is, if voodoo doctors looked and sounded like James Brown & The Famous Flames were taught to vogue by Madonna with Run–D.M.C. as a stylist.

Watch official video for their single “Hot Checks” here:

ALBUM REVIEW: Israel Nash “Rain Plans”


The long-locked, regally bearded songwriter Israel Nash Gripka marries spacey psychedelic guitar work to wind-chilled vocals that pay a nod to Neil Young; Gripka’s songs amble, they meditate, they conduct experiments in theme and variation. His third and latest studio album, Rain Plans (out August 19th!) finds Gripka signed to independent British label Loose Music–an apt enough match, given Loose Music’s strong stable of Americana standards like Townes Van Zandt, Neko Case, and Steve Earle. And Gripka has some history in common with your average modern cowboy: originally of Missouri, he moved to New York City to release his first two albums, then split for Dripping Springs, Texas, where he soaked up what he refers to as the area’s “desert folklore” as inspiration for this forlorn, majestic new release.

I’m always interested to see what comes from a matchup of psychedelia and Americana. Despite the genres’ shared theme of wanderlust, the former tends to focus on that wandering’s texture and color, whereas the latter deals in oral history and storytelling. Long stretches of Rain Plans feel like deliberate efforts to let the songwriting move on a long leash, to see where the mind will go when it’s left to its own devices, in the absence of the civilization or plot. The musical patterns are cyclical, the melody unhurried, even listless. In one of the album’s most interior portions, in the back half of the title track, all  vocals melt away, leaving a swirling and seemingly endless cycle of mesmerizing guitars. The only thing that remains fixed is the pace: held firm, as if by a metronome, at a slow stroll.

So it’s clear that the album is a journey, but one that moves in circles, and it may test many listeners’ patience not to see the point of all this meandering. With all due respect to the virtues of wandering without being lost, these songs are so relaxed that they sometimes don’t appear to grow from start to finish. There isn’t necessarily going to be development from one end of a song to another; in the worst case scenario, the music instead restates the same idea over and over again, in different ways. Rain Plans isn’t necessarily an album that’s going to tell you a story that has a clear-cut beginning, middle, and end.

But if you have time to sit with it a while, the album proves that, for Gripka, spaciousness rarely equals stagnancy. Consider the shimmeringly gorgeous “Iron of the Mountain,” which establishes a single, circular melody–one moment in time, one color–and then extends it for almost four and a half minutes. Rain Plans richly evokes the vivid aesthetic of folklore: it’s a snapshot, rather than a story, of the landscape. Think of it as a collection of moments, which bear loose connection but don’t need each other in order to function.

The only exception to that logic is the closer, “Rexanimarum,” which is Rain Plans’ most unabashedly rootsy track, with lyrics like “pour me out just like sour wine,” and even echoes of old country songs, “got the money if you got the time.” With a lovely and light touch of backup vocals, this song may be the album’s sunniest, and is certainly its most singalong-friendly.

Check out the full album stream over at the A.V. Club, and go here to order your physical copy of Rain Plans! Listen to “Rain Plans,” with all its swirly melodies and smooth vocal harmonies, below via SoundCloud: