Corporeal sensitivities to non-physical sensations can be isolating and hard to explain, but on Earwitness Joyul conveys those feelings by turning the sonic mirror on herself. Across eight sonic vignettes (plus three remixes), the story of a secret, introspective world reveals itself. Yet, how we hear and feel Earwitness is unique, colored by personal histories and individual stories. Eyes closed, thoughts centered, by taking in the narrative threads and sonorous revelations Joyul shares, we begin to understand her experience through our own, finding a connective embrace along the way.
Earwitness opens with “A Stage,” an amorphous storm of disembodied voices stretched across thawing rivers and ramshackle percussion. Rhythms emerge, just barely, but it’s the mix of Joyul’s whispers and the glistening tonal swamp that is most engaging. Hollow pads balloon into soft, viscous aural globules enveloping the jagged expanse to polish the hard edges into a gentle curve. “A Stage” stands neck-deep in this aqueous landscape determined to extend an invitation into this beguiling place.
Once this outer layer is stripped away, Earwitness blooms in the weightless environment. Freed from a pretense of stoicism and apathy, Joyul embraces the silhouettes of her hidden nature that emerge from a gilded garden once the walls come down and light pours in. Throughout Earwitness, her words are confessions as much as hopeful promises. “I don’t understand why you still look beautiful,” she murmurs in layers on the slow, crushing drones of “Prayer’s Stone,”
“Even after feeling like I now know everything.” Her voice is incandescent, almost tangible; it’s saturated with confidence that bleeds into the fabric of every piece on Earwitness, but is never clearer than in these closing moments of “Prayer’s Stone.”
Guitars slow dance with quixotic birdsong, bathed in cavernous resonance as Joyul’s voice echoes beneath a gentle rain on “Marginalia.” “Though I remember all the words we shared. Your soul that trickled down from between your language,” she sings, quietly overtaken by the chaos of a growing storm. “Audible Distance” takes us under the floorboards into dismay punctuated by sharp piano notes and swirling, solemn vocals. Each track has its own gravity, but there’s still a strong thread pulling it all together.
Joyul puts every ounce she has into Earwitness, almost as an act of futility in the way that we will never hear or feel the things she does within this aural universe. Yet it’s the poetic determination to see through that folly that becomes the connective tissue of the album. At a certain point, feeling the emotional language she buries in this music becomes less important than the act of engaging with it earnestly and putting as much of ourselves into that act as we can. That’s where the connections sprout. That’s where the magic lies.