Bandcamp of the Day: Devin Clara

Devin Clara is a Chicago-based mandolin player and composer who dreams of Spanish chords and delicate orchestrations during her waking hours. Her latest full-length LP Between Sleep are Wakeful Dreams was recorded by herself while in quarantine last summer and acts as a dramatic and affective roadmap of the feelings and ruminations she cycled through while in isolation.

Like for many of us, the initial period of quarantine was something akin to a sprawling interchange between slumber and consciousness. Where days bled into each other and the normal rhythms that distinguish work from play, and recuperation from labor were collapsed. There were no more transitory places or periods of time where we were in relief. It was a period for many when liminal space and time evaporated and was replaced by an ever more present sense of the now. Surprisingly, the reality that you could now be working almost constantly, with no separation from your place of work and the place where you actually lived, did not make the world feel more grounded. Instead, it felt like it was spinning ever more slightly off its axis, teetering on the verge of rolling off into spacer like some wayward, cosmic bowling ball.

Devin Clara’s album captures the strangeness of this period perfectly while remaining definitely positioned against the psychological maladies it was most likely to produce. Between Sleep are Wakeful Dreams is the product of concerted effort and focus, a deliberate act of concentrating one’s mind and energy in a way that pierces through the fog of the period of its construction to re-establish a sense of control and realize untapped possibilities. While isolation produced a sense of unrealness, Between Sleep are Wakeful Dreams returns us to the folds of reality by reclaiming the world of the imaginary as a separate but complementary sphere from that of matter-of-fact living.

The album opens with the inviting “Betweeen Sleep” with its warm piano tones and flowing melodies that feel like a series of translucent curtains are slowly being drawn aside in anticipation of your passage down a long hall towards an uncertain but thrilling threshold. “Day Trail” maintains the sense of momentum of its predecessor with a light jazz beat and a Chet Baker-esque trumpet accompaniment that beckons you, like a bird call, into the wilderness. “Treetops” adds a dose of mystery with some skipping, Flamenco-inspired guitars complemented by a breezy horn melody. Later, “Only to Fall From the Clouds” combines broken bee-bops rhythms with blazing guitars and a brilliantly bright fusion-jazz synth melody, all of which coalesce into piano-pop balladry, only to erupt again into a blaze of irrepressible sonic fire. The track acts as the climax of the album, after which, it glides through the cooling mist of the aptly named “Splash” before settling into its most poignant moment, “The Waters Were Warm and Inviting,” a track that consists primarily of a spoken word poem recited over washes and flexes of wordless and vision-seeking vocal harmonies, describing various phases of trauma and convalescence which Devin has experienced and probes the scars in her brain to test the extent that they’ve healed, or are ever capable of healing. The album could have ended here, but there are still three more tracks; the hypnogogic noir of “Lighthouse Curvature,” the romantic rejuvenation of “Night Trail,” and the clarity claiming traipse “Wakeful Dreams.”

You can stream the entirety of Between Sleep are Wakeful Dreams below via Bandcamp:

Follow Devin Clara on Twitter and Instagram.

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