Protector plays out like the soundtrack to a long journey into night, a lonesome drive on the outskirts of town with only headlights illuminating the way. Such is the cinematic scope of Aoife Nessa Frances’ sophomore album that the music has a hypnotic quality that dances across a widescreen mixture of psychedelic, dream-pop and indie shapes and colors.
It’s challenging to extract singular parts of Protector from the over-arching work itself. The power of Aoife Nessa Frances’ latest offering comes from how each song beautifully melds into the next. This is a whole story, a narrative from beginning to end. Indeed, ‘Way To Say Goodbye’ instantly submerges us in the darkly-lit haze of Protector. Blending choruses and verses in the same way the individual tracks melt into one another, ‘This Still Life’ fades into view, almost emerging from the same textural landscape as ‘Way To Say Goodbye’.
That is not to say Protector lulls you into a passive listening experience; rather, much like the aforementioned late-night drive, there’s an insular immersive quality brought to the fore by Aoife Nessa Frances’ commanding performance. The sprawling ‘Only Child’ entrances with vivid passages of musicality as Frances powerfully draws focus, while the gently set ‘Back To Earth’ rests carefully on the tone and mood within her voice. This dreamlike back and forth between voice and sound is at the centre of Protector, weaving a sonic thread throughout.
The stand-out moment of Protector is Protector itself. As I said before, Aoife Nessa Frances has woven together a world so completely, that each element is essential to its mise-en-scène. A haunting vocal plays the main character while the music forms the setting, making the immersive nature of Protector its zenith.
And so it goes, Protector is the result of an artist at the height of their powers. Aoife Nessa Frances’ writes, directs and stars in a record that thrusts us into late-night soundscapes with the light of her music guiding the way. As thrilling as it is hypnotic, few albums this year are as cohesively constructed as Aoife Nessa Frances’ Protector.