Confession: Allison’s Gate – or as she’s known on her birth certificate, Carolina McPhail – is a friend of mine. Disclaimer: that’s not why I’m writing this. I’m writing this because ‘2008-2016’, the first track from her upcoming album Sink or Swim to be released on Brighton’s Memorials of Distinction label, is beautiful.
In the time since our first weirdly fateful encounter in a film class, or our second on what accidentally became a very romantic Valentine’s sunset stroll, I’ve heard a number of incarnations of her enigmatic alter-ego Allison’s Gate and watched her woozy visuals sway in and out of focus to match. I’ve heard the bare vocal lines, watched her faff with Garage Band, seen scraps of film ideas and full music video productions created for Sparklehorse and her own satisfaction.
For a while though, things have been somewhat quiet. Occasional tracks would appear with little fanfare and I worried that she’d stopped, or was fizzling. Instead, I head to Facebook one day and find out (in exactly the way every good friend does), that she’s releasing a much anticipated album on the small Brighton based label Memorials of Distinction. (Note on this front: if googling them, be sure to put ‘records’ after their name. Unless you’re already in the market for a high quality headstone that is).
I was even happier to hear ‘2008-2016’ than I could have expected. Allison’s gate has always been a multi-faceted venture, one where the production’s as layered and blurred about the edges as the intention behind and the visuals alongside it. On ‘2008-2016’ though, the always present glitches have acquired a character of their own, commanding the haunting, ephemeral vocal which dance around it like a siren in the mist. The lyrics are, as always, near indistinguishable, but in a piece like this it really feels as though it’s the only way it could have been. When I asked Carolina why the name ‘2008-2016’, she replied that “it’s kind of like a feeling that you get over several years when they all blur into one in one long nostalgia trip // dream feel”. As soon as she said it, I realised it didn’t really need to be asked: of course that’s why. Of course that’s why every part of this song’s the way it is, from the subaquatic piano to the barely there repetitions of “I Like Your Eyes”; from the fragmented, barely sensical visuals provided by Franz Violet to the matching fragmented fragility of the song’s structure. It loops, it’s haunted with confused sentiment, it’s a little blurred around the edges. With ‘2008-2016’, Allison’s Gate’s created the misted rose-tinted glasses equivalent of an album opener, and it’s hypnotic.
Pre-order Sink or Swim here