Dawn Smithson spent the year and a half that went into this album's creation as
something of a hermit, rarely connecting with others. With all
its inward gnawing and gnashing of teeth, this solitariness seeps into the woody timbres of her stark guitar-plucking, the seismic lurch of her lucent organ drones, the fire-breathing of the string instruments. Wandering through an expanse of grey quiet, the music has a powerful ease about it, full of exuberance and yearning as it flows around the listener like a warm bath.
Made with mics planted about her room, the recording is rustic to say the least,
but also cozy and inhabitable, a quaint nook to steal away to on a sullen Sunday.
use of funeral tempos, low-end, murky drones and grim moods paints an image of
scudding clouds and trees silhouetted against a pale sky, unveiling the particularity
of Smithson's present situation, with all its blemishes and scabs.
With her reedy, robust moan
acting as guide through some 40 minutes, thick patches of starlit
sound and grumbling surges of industrious buzz expand the aural space and accentuate
valiant, steady confessions. On the relatively sparse and barren opener,
Smithson laments, "I may not be happy/ But at least I know that I'm safer here," and
unveils as one of the album's central themes the alluring, if simultaneously
repugnant, comfort that stems from bouts of isolation.
The sluggish songs are at times lush, and always
light and haunting. Although altogether traditional, and even sometimes
derivative, the album has an detached center, emphasizing a hard root tone and
no rhythmic certainty. Instead, songs startle and remain interesting on account
of their raw, erratic displays of emotion, their austere, gritty textures and
droning persistence. In a noteworthy moment, against a bank of what sounds like
sighing violins, Smithson's low, cracked voice
wails, "Close your eyes now/ To the darkness inside/ Can't run from here/ It's
deep inside/ You should
never have been," as she slowly begins to seek her despair, as opposed to finding
means to disperse it.
However, for all her lucid expressions of agony and fear before a world seemingly
devoid of foundation, numerous songs would benefit from greater development
of their own character. The work does hinge upon a subtlety of sound, giving
care to each tone in its continuation of what came
before, but some
pieces, such as "Speak Through Me," manage to do this while still undergoing
shifts; nearly two-thirds of the way through "Speak Through Me," the
guitar theme picks up to double speed, then slows down for a moment before a
Perhaps indicative of the work's title, Safer Here too often seeks refuge in
pastures, hedged by reverb-laden whistles. But it also harbors its own
charm while Smithson tries to probe the problems that plague her interactions
world and those who wander through it.