Beautiful things can sprout out of very dark things. This album is one such instance of this.
Gillian Rae Perry is a composer based in LA. With roots in Classical composition and an affinity for singer/songwriter and jazz styles and a master’s degree in composition, she definitely came to us prepared, giving us an album that’s both personally intimate and universally accessible. Gillian put to paper most of the music for this album after she received her diagnosis of depression. It was her way to deal and making sense of what she’s made of and what she’s to live with, and in her words, writing the music for this album saw her undergo an immense shift in her mental health for the better, and she does a beautiful job of conveying this contrast between the darkness of the disease and the hope and comfort than she managed to find within creating music.
Gilligil is an intimately personal journey, even the name directly referencing its composer is a possible nod towards how much this music is about and for Gillian herself. The music is entirely devoid of the unnecessary clangs of drums, or the unneeded mess of bass, and mostly devoid of useless guitars also, favoring Gillian, her softly struck piano, and layers upon layers of processed vocals, sound effects, and other atmospheric elements that come in both musical and ambient forms. All in all, a true marvel of sound crafting and painting full, colorful portraits using a very limited and limiting palette.
The songs on this album come in two or three distinct styles, and perhaps can be further categorized into two classes, the first is of insanely beautiful pieces with angelic soundscapes and haunting melodies, and the other is of eerie and desolate pieces with unnerving dissonances and/or jarring sonic manipulations. One style is the minimal, piano-driven ballad-like music, with flowing, non-structured singing, ‘A therapist’ is a standout from this style, a sweet, bright tune that shifts seamlessly from a ukulele-laden intro to a blossoming piano-led ballad with interesting chords and melodies and tasteful harmonies. ‘Any Sort of Way’ is another one. A gentle and reassuring ballad with personal and comforting words, with a background of sparse piano chords and sweet vocal wimps that evolve to a gospel choir style outro that’s absolutely heartwarming.
Another style is heaving and melancholic songs, with darkness as the prevailing element in the composition. ‘Like This’ is a very eerie instance of this. a massive ballad with soaring strings and trebly pads and intentionally jarring dissonance in the harmonies. ‘Happening Away’ also falls under this category. With dissonance so prominent, and the longest runtime for any song here, it’s the hardest one to sit through. ‘Need Me’ and ‘A Reminder’ are similar despite the polar differences, both are relatively longer, piano-led ballads with intimately personal words. ‘Need Me’ has the most beautiful piano sound on the whole record and one of the lushest string arrangements. ‘A Reminder’ is a vast ballad with immense strings and simple, direct, and strong words. It is also the simplest to define, in my opinion, melancholic and bittersweet, I found it to be my favorite.
The three songs, ‘In My Head’, ‘Dear Friend’, and ‘One Day’ are quirky and poppy tunes, with light easily beating the darkness, they are fun and playful and easy to love. Not to say that they have no individuality, though. ‘In My Head is a striking, serene lullaby, and ‘One Day’ has all the grace that an album finisher should have, with its moving chords and self-confronting and comforting words.
A triumph in displaying how darkness and light can and do exist side by side at all times, and a beautifully sensitive and talented artist to offer this display to us all, for comfort, serenity, and countless possible life lessons.