Glasgow’s Elisabeth Elektra has had quite the journey since her first single was released in 2018. Slots at All Tomorrow’s Parties, Kendall Calling, and SXSW have brought her unique live shows to the attention of the masses and each release brings her more critical acclaim. Her debut album, Mercurial, is a future-pop paean to mythology, metaphysics and crystals.
Each track has its own distinct life-force and purpose, but to truly appreciate Mercurial is to approach it as a singular entity. From the majestic opener I Am The Love with its reverb-laden beat and the euphonious vocal arrangement the intent is clear; to prise open your third eye with a wedge of blissful noise.
Across its ten tracks Mercurial has a distinct worldly flavour to it. Historical and mystical references are scattered across the soundscapes; references to Inanna (a Mesopotamian goddess of love and war) and minerals such as Hypersthene and Obsidian infer a passion for the exotic. Elektra’s vocal runs often have a Middle Eastern twang to them, the slight inflections lending an otherwise straight-up westernised pop banger a sense of romantic mysticism. Some of the instrumental arrangements wouldn’t sound out of place in a Baltic club, decimating the ear drums of writhing bodies well into the wee hours.
The gallons of reverb and swirling stereo echoes could have easily swamped Elektra’s vocals and lessened their impact, but the production is perfectly balanced and every constituent element is given space to breathe across the aural bombardment of the album. As well as her own innate talent, her collaborations with Andrew Liles (Nurse With Wound) and Ben Power (Fuck Buttons) have afforded her a considered knack for restraint while also pushing sounds to their limits – taking influence from both but creating something unique of her own.
While much of the album is driven by euphoric synths and soaring arrangements, many of the highlights are found when the noise is pared back and individual instruments are put front and centre. The ghostly a capella introduction to Hieroglyph is beautifully arranged; perfectly eerie harmonies and counter melodies swell seamlessly into the rhythmic pulsing of the chorus. On Hypersthene the synth melody is sublime in its nostalgia – ripped straight from Columns on the Sega Mega Drive or some other 16-bit adventure lodged deep in the recesses of the memory – while Sadie opens with delicate percussive tones and a beautiful vintage warble. Each sound is meticulously planned and placed to create futuristic, yet familiar, pop.
All ten tracks create a cohesive artifact; the tones, lyrics, production and melodies work together for the common purpose of crafting a listening experience that’s as absorbing as it is danceable, avoiding the discordant and the visceral. It’s a soft, luscious environment for Elektra’s distinct vocals and personality to germinate. At points it would have been nice to hear her stretch her range or indulge in more ambitious structures and dynamics, but doing so may, perhaps, have ruined the comfortable experience created throughout the album.
Mercurial is a self-assured statement of intent – a sign of even greater things to come. It’s an album of cocooning euphoria that – even if just for 40-odd minutes – promises that things will be alright.