Playwrite’s debut album Cathedrals is a reminder that good can be born out of tragedy. The Melbourne quintet have spent the last three years creating the LP in the wake of lead guitarist Patrick Holcombe’s parents passing away in the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires. Rooted in folk-pop, the psychedelic effects layered throughout the album are laden with melancholy and seriousness that shouldn’t deter listeners – the experience itself quite cathartic.
Jordan White’s piercing vocals are the perfect vehicle for the solemn songwriting the debut is structured on, offering that glimmer of hope people often strive for in times of darkness. Delicately and seamlessly interwoven, the elation of the record works through the myriad of emotions felt in times of grief.
While the record is deeply personal, it fleshes out individual emotional experiences, with the likes of ‘Black Cloud’ having been written in the wake of the Fukushima Earthquake and Nuclear Disaster in 2011. White’s delicate vocals tentatively describe the destruction of the event with the help of intricate guitar work, swirling ever so gently in the accents of his voice. The juxtaposition of subject and delivery perfectly outlines the helplessness of a disaster of that scale. Working into a crescendo of fragility and urgency, ‘Black Cloud’ is definitely a stand-out track of the record.
Psychedelic elements are intricately woven throughout tracks like ‘Little Ark’, adding to the oscillating effect to which both the instrumentals and vocals create. The effect builds up to an intoxicating and soaring vocal crescendo, leaving you feeling a sense of relief when the last “ooo” fades out. Written about the flooding of Elizabeth Street in Melbourne four years ago, it’s an ode to how powerful Mother Nature can be and how much it can change familiar surroundings in such a short period of time.
There aren’t any non-engaging moments in this record; every song grips you with a truthful emotive vigor. The empathy throughout the entire band comes together to create disarmingly honest music that you not only enjoy, but also feel. It’s rare when a record commands your attention from start to finish and this record does just that. Put the kettle on, brew a pot, sit back and let Cathedrals take you through Playwrite’s story.