Isnaj Dui “Bright Star”

Across three longform pieces, Isnaj Dui (aka Katie English) moves slowly, intricately draped fabric following her, leaving a behind delicate path. These compositions are inspired by Keats’ sonnet of the same name. They teem with life, primeval energy flowing through the sonic crevices of these gentle, expansive drones. 

English uses an array of instrumentation to create these transportive and beguiling sound worlds. Opening track, “Moving Waters,” sounds like a disintegrating, submerged orchestra playing the last nights before the end of the world. Flute tones stretch out, circulating like blood through the body, enriching everything it touches and finding life in unexpected places. Whimsical high-pitched flutters float by, drifting along on top of the peaceful drones. The music points in one direction, always moving forward along a cryptic rhythm toward a distant, beckoning horizon.

“Still Steadfast” canters along uncertainly, metallic forces resonating and screeching under pressure, waiting for the moment to surface. Eventually, the somber lament of English’s flute returns, a solemn boat across the River Styx into the darkness. Repeating patterns dull the senses, bewitching listeners into acquiescing. No pushbacks, no restraints but a lulling sirensong that simultaneously eases the tension and sets a trap. “Still Steadfast” is quiet and minimal, but the heavy impact can’t be ignored. English does so much with so little, packing desolation and anxiety into each note.

Bright Star is a beautiful, well-conceived album. Isnaj Dui does an incredible job of creating an aural painting of Keats’ work. On closer “Swoon to Death,” she once again shoots slow-motion sonic arrows with her flute, intent on piercing any illusions of grandeur and fighting through the malaise. It’s a captivating end to a stunning album. Eyes closed, I drift away into the sweet unrest.

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