Unfolding like a skittish, intimate dream, “Z-E-P-H-Y-R” is an affecting blend of the organic and the electronic. The non-organic parts are soft and elusive—a whispery synth here, chimey electronics there, and the gentlest of synthetic beats throughout. The non-electronic stuff, meanwhile, is full of movement and subtle edginess. We get a finger-picked guitar front and center, and it took me many listens to internalize the fact that this is an electric guitar, not an acoustic guitar. It’s being played like an acoustic guitar, which is more unusual than it probably should be.
Meanwhile, Anna Kohlweis performs with a commanding nonchalance, gliding deftly between lyrics that are almost spoken and those that are sung. Her voice has a pleasing richness and an engaging variation between her lower and higher registers, while the words that are half-spoken are often arriving with the velvety urgency of a whispered prayer. Her voice and delivery combine with the uncluttered arrangement to create the illusion that there is maybe not much of a song or a melody here, but that’s exactly what it is—an illusion. Listen carefully and you may see how the song’s melodic strength is hiding in plain sight, at once enhanced and obscured by subtlety and misdirection.
Squalloscope is the current performing name for Vienna, Austria-based singer/songwriter/artist/writer Anna Kohlweis. She previously recorded music under the name Paper Bird. “Z-E-P-H-Y-R” is a song from the debut Squalloscope album, Soft Invasions, which was released on Seayou Records back in March. The song was released this fall as a single and a free and legal MP3. You can download it via the link above or via SoundCloud, where you can also read the lyrics.