The ever mutating musical project of Katie Crutchfield has returned with a style completely different to what her fans are accustomed to. Featuring a collection of songs originally written for the now inactive experimental recording group of the title’s name, Great Thunder is the culmination of her revisiting and reimagining them with producer Brad Cook at Justin Vernon’s April Base studio in Wisconsin.
Waxahatchee has stripped these down to their bare skeletal parts and has really brought them to life, opening a more explorative emotional avenue to her songwriting.
Last year’s Out in the Storm record gained critical acclaim, but she’s now moved herself away from the rock-orientated influences and towards a straight- up minimalist vibe. “I would say that it is a complete 180 from the last record: super stripped-down, quiet, and with me performing solo, it’s a throwback to how I started,” she said.
Throughout the six song EP, which clocks in at under 20 minutes, she grabs the listener’s attention through the raw emotion and power in her vocal performance. ‘Singer’s No Star’ kicks things off, as the vast instrumentation and fuzz is removed to leave her voice as the primary instrument in the framework of the track.
‘You’re Welcome’ then shows slight variation with a banjo. However, this never deters from the stark morbid lyrics as Crutchfield sings of mothers praying for: “Padlocks on their doors”. ‘Chapel of Pines’ is perhaps the record’s finest moment, though, with its bass and piano ushering you in before the simple melody drives the song along as she repeats the haunting phrase: “Will you go?”
The relatively faster and more harmonious ‘Slow You Down’ and the melancholic ‘Takes So Much’ then close what is a stimulating and intense release. Her vocals sound as mature as ever, whilst the overall style of the six songs bleeds authenticity.
Great Thunder was a brave risk for her to take but one that has paid off. She has spent a lot of time exploring the core element of these compositions over time; leaving us to now enjoy them in their purest form.