Australian composer, sound designer, and vocalist Rachael Dease has just released the haunting vocal track and accompanying video The Silence Knew on the back of her lauded Perth Festival performance.
It's the second single (and second track) from the cinematic album Hymns for End Times, which begins at the end of the story. The video was created by Dease herself and it’s both the prologue and epilogue to a moment some have lived, and some have feared, drawing upon bruised orange skies, falling ash, and ventures into an apocalyptic future.
“There are several moments during Hymns for End Times where the perspective shifts to that of a child and The Silence Knew is one of them,” Dease explains. “The visual companion to the track reflects this – a small, beautiful mess of naivety, confusion, loneliness and unbreakable hope.”
Hymns for End Times was written during the Australian bushfires as lullabies when Dease was nursing a newborn and facing man-made disaster and helplessness. It’s both a powerful protest against an apocalyptic future and a poetic lullaby to help sooth our fears.
Written on the banks of the Derbarl Yerrigan (Swan River) as the 2020 composer-in-residence at Western Australia’s historic Gallop House through the Bundanon Trust and National Trust of Australia, Dease moved in with her family during the 2019/2020 Australian bushfires.
"It’s difficult to do much else when nursing a baby, you have to sit, be still. You can sing, or whisper or soothe. But mostly you’re forced to be still, for much longer than you normally would,” Dease says. “With the air purifier running red, whirring to keep up, I sat and nursed and watched the heavy smoke on the horizon.
“Looking out from this house during lockdown was startling. The river became a lake – a mirror, perfectly still. No people, no sounds, no boats. The perfect vista for stories to emerge.
“I was dealing with fear and anxiety by dreaming up cinematography, and I was processing hope and love by writing the score.”
While Dease’s songs and spellbinding voice have been compared to Nick Cave, Chelsea Wolfe, PJ Harvey and Agnes Obel, Hymns for End Times is part-song, part symphony, with shades of Max Richter, Jóhann Jóhannsson and Henri Gorecki.
And even though the subject matter is heavy, the songs aren’t depressing. Featuring captivating vocals, lush strings and intricate soundscapes, guttural emotions have been shaped into an intensely personal series of dark and beautiful musical vignettes.
“These songs are full of love as well. They’re about love of humans, and love of the future, it’s an outpouring of love, concern, anxiety, sadness and celebration.”
Dease’s often haunting compositions and sound designs have included the STRUT Dance/Maxine Doyle dance-theatre work Sunset, sound installations including commissions for Dark Mofo’s Winterfeast, and the award-winning art music song cycle City of Shadows, to name just a few. She was also the front person of alternative rock band Schvendes who released an album and two EPs and toured internationally performing at Canadian Music Week as well as a series of shows in New York.
But this is Dease’s first solo album outing – a personal, unapologetic amalgamation of her talents – and it is available digitally and on limited edition vinyl and CD.