Heather Leigh takes her Throne as queen of pedal steel with a suite of heartbleed ballads cauterised with burning riffs. After the rawness of its precursor I Abused Animal, Throne is a record of late night Americana and heavy femininity; intimate love songs smoked in sensuality. The songs on Throne are woozy, gorgeous and uncomfortable, smothered in thick layers of bass but lifted by multitracked vocals. These are rich song forms that stand in contrast to the stripped down steel in her duo with Peter Brotzmann.
Prelude To Goddess sashays in wearing leopard print jeans under the twinkling fluorescent illuminations of the British seaside, like Brighton Rock with extra bass. It is followed in by Lena – arguably Leigh's Jolene – a perverse love song soaked in a subversive sexuality, weighed down with a heavy pulse. Soft Seasons is anchored with sunken beats shrouded in wailing, growling steel and an earwormy melody.
Gold Teeth, the longest track on the record, crests and breaks in waves; ecstatic peaks balanced and echoed by melancholic troughs. It soars on an updraft, and from cosmic heights dives seaward into a gnarly and riotous pedal steel breakdown, before catching the breeze again.
Days Without You and Scorpio & Androzani are shorter, intimate songs, in the latter the synths seethe and the steel bows and bends as Leigh's voice falters above a Greek chorus of shadows and reflections. But this isn't autobiography, and Throne departs on Days Without You, a confrontationally unfinished romantic song, anxious with half-thoughts and missed connections. It glides into the night on stilettos leaving unanswered questions, in a fug of psychic disturbance and lovesick sensuality.
Leigh's artwork (which she photographed and designed) is a visual mirror of the songs on Throne. It is an album of cosmic echoes, abstractions and introspection, of characters and stories that make up Leigh's first best pop record, its melodies and hooks set alight with the fiery core of her unique and distinctive pedal steel.
JLA August 2018
released October 26, 2018
Heather Leigh: pedal steel guitar, vocals, synthesizer, drum machine
music composed & performed by Heather Leigh
additional instrumentation by John Hannon: violin, synthesizer & David Keenan: electric bass
recorded & engineered by John Hannon, Rayleigh, Essex March 2018
vinyl mastered & cut by Rashad Becker at Dubplates & Mastering, Berlin June 2018
photographs & design: Heather Leigh