taupe set xl “shadow of venus”

Kristen Soller, the Miami-based artist and hypnotist behind taupe set xl, channels an inner power with her voice. On her first album – last year’s Mar – a quiet, strong spirit flowed on gentle solemn waves, like feathers adrift in the wind. shadow of venus traverses similar terrain, though it feels as though the sun has finally set and the only thing keeping us warm is this disembodied, enchanting voice in the darkness.

Muted layers resonate in cavernous vessels on opener “behold.” Viscous liquid changes shape slowly, Soller’s voice an all-encompassing glow surrounded by thin whispers. It’s barely there before dissipating into the ether, but the incandescent hollows welcome us deeper into this intimate space. Gentle synth melodies repeat in familiar patterns on “carried by birdsong,” a well-worn ghost portrait with soft-focused eyes. Soller’s voice grows, moving from hushed breaths to a captivating aura that feels ethereal and alive.

Much of shadow of venus follows similar patterns, but that repetition with subtle changes and shifts adds to its power. “the serpents dance” begins with lilting synth notes moving back and forth in time. On its own, there’s a hypnotic undercurrent woven in those elegant tones, but when Soller begins singing wordlessly, a switch is flipped and everything lights up. Textures breathe and crackle, adding depth and a tactile quality, but it’s the voice that infects us, that makes us whole. 

“reunion” and “radiance” close the album (and make up the b-side of the tape, I assume) and the subtlety becomes a hammer with these two slices of magic. Removing the synth accompaniment, Soller’s voice grows three sizes and stands on its own. Swirling sound masses shimmer, moving in surprising and emotionally-heavy ways to create a sonic cocoon around this fractured, languishing world. “reunion” is more contemplative and reserved, swimming upstream with quiet determination as rain blankets the echoes with a ghostly embrace. And then the walls break as “radiance” floods our receptors, splitting the astral veil wide open as an immortal essence descends. This is what magic sounds like and, perhaps more importantly, feels like too.

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