Damiana “Vines”

Natalie Chami and Whitney Johnson joining forces on Damiana is a gift. The two Chicago artists hover in the same ether with similar, though still unique, approaches and the melding of their collective energy is spellbinding. Vines brings together sky-gazing synth arpeggios, viola dreams, and their twin voices into a femme-centered sonic glasshouse. Chami and Johnson intertwine, flourishing in the connective tissue of these four songs.

Emotional peaks hit in unexpected moments on Vines. Sharp, digital fuzz adds an element of cacophony on “Melted Reach” as Johnson’s viola tries to keep it together, multiple layers zigzagging to avoid a collision, but ultimately losing control as the storm coalesces around them. Cracks form on the surface, “Melted Reach” breaking down into silver tracers against the dark sky. It’s a rare jagged edge on a generally soft, elegant record, but the sparks serve to illuminate the forgiving flow from which they’re cast.

Elements of the rhythmic romp, “Under An Aster,” are reminiscent of Peaking Lights’ Imaginary Falcons, though more fully articulated and spacious. Synth flourishes light the night with asymmetrical arpeggiated waves, flickering and resonating into infinity with voices trailing in spiraling unison. As they let go and the six-minute instrumental outro blossoms into its own technicolor sprawl, there’s an entire universe budding before our eyes. “Under An Aster” is pure magic.

Lush landscapes are built throughout Vines from gossamer textures, interconnected but never quite making contact. There are so many layers being balanced by Chami and Johnson that it’s dizzying and glorious. “Sunken Lupine” shines as an operatic ballet. Voices rising, traversing the ethereal plane in gauzy delight, deep sonic explorations find a sense of solemnity as the wordless echoes ring through the cosmos. Silken tones are a feathered blade, surgically cutting out the rot within and emerging as a solid, elemental force. 

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