This stunningly assured, profoundly beautiful mini-masterpiece (follow-up to 2019's acclaimed August) is pretty much the polar opposite of Lay's background in L.A's punk and noise-rock circles (most notably as a guitarist for Ty Segall 's Freedom Band). These unhurriedly drifting, dreamy yet sturdily built songs (centred on Lay's finger-picked nylon-stringed guitar and clear, languid vocals) could probably be described as indie-folk. However, the images of bearded gentle-folk cooing softly about sub-Bon Iver heartache that shorthand is likely to conjure undersells the gradually accumulating, hypnotic pull and quiet majesty of Geist massively.
Earlier this year, the transcendental folk musician Shannon Lay performed a tarot reading for her fourth solo album, Geist. In a video posted to her Patreon, she revealed one of the deck's most dramatic and foreboding images: two figures plummeting from a burning castle struck by lightning--the Tower card, known in some decks as the Tower of Destruction, said to be a harbinger of violent and sundering change. Geist, an album largely focused on spiritual shifts and ruptures, is a quiet, lovely, undramatic rendering of the dramatic.
Photo by Kai MacKnight Geist by Shannon Lay Geist is album number four from LA-based singer-songwriter Shannon Lay, and her second for Sub Pop following 2019's August. The basic guitar and vocal tracks were recorded by Jarvis Taveniere (Woods), then musicians Ben Boye (Ty Segall), Devin Hoff (Sharon Van Etten), Sofia Arreguin (Wand) and Aaron Otheim (Mega Bog) added further instrumental layers. At the heart of it all, Lay's voice flows coolly in multi-tracked waves over deftly fingerpicked nylon-string guitar, with understated support from the other musicians.
There is delicate warmth to 'Geist's textured ruminations. A modern re-working of the long-preserved nylon-stringed folk tradition, as Shannon Lay seeks transcendence in the solace of the natural world - observing wild suns and bright stars whilst traversing the seasons of her own conjured placeless environment. For much of the record, Lay opts for minimalist pastoral tones which she imbues with a light-touching, formless, sonic landscape - always underpinned by a softly picked acoustic melody at its heart.