The legendary Julie Christmas (Made Out of Babies, Battle of Mice) left a huge hole in the landscape of sludge/post rock when both of her respective projects decided to disband. After releasing an innovative solo album ‘The Bad Wife’ in 2010, Julie seemingly fell off the face of the earth (she was actually teaching science to elementary school kids) and the music world has been a dark and desolate place without the voice of a woman talented enough that she’d probably be able to sing you the schedule of a bus timetable and make it sound utterly compelling. After six long years, Julie has finally dipped her toes into the post rock pool once more by teaming up with Swedish powerhouse, Cult of Luna, for the collaborative release of ‘Mariner’.
The album opens with ‘A Greater Call’; Cult of Luna provide suitably cinematic soundscapes as a platform for Julie’s faraway and dreamy chants, complemented by Johannes Person’s throaty barks. Given the abrasive nature of Person’s vocals, it would be easy for him to drown out the ethereal qualities that Julie is bringing to this track, however, the production quality is so pristine that neither voice overpowers the other and they are in perfect harmony with each other.
Julie takes much of the reigns for vocals on the rest of the album, utilising songs such as ‘Chevron’ and ‘The Wreck of S.S Needle’ to showcase the deranged shrieks and spiteful sounding clean vocals she is best known for. The kaleidoscopic qualities of Cult of Luna’s hardcore tinged post rock riffs work perfectly alongside her and offer up the question of how this partnering hasn’t always existed, as the two just seem to “fit”.
Both acts bring out the best in each other, with Cult of Luna pushing themselves to their very limits in terms of catchy hooks and weirder, more experimental passages. In turn, Julie sings at her loudest and creepiest and adjusts her voice accordingly to work with the ebb and flow of the music, and join in unison with Johannes for the more epic parts of the record.
There are some genuine transcendental moments on ‘Mariner’ and at times it can feel like you’re immersed in a Made Out of Babies or Battle of Mice record and at others like Julie has always been a part of the Cult of Luna line-up. The two compliment each other to such an extent that it’s difficult to hear where one ends and the other begins. A divine piece of musical madness and we can only hope that they elevate this collaboration to a live setting, as the result would be truly mindblowing.
(10/10 Angela Davey)