On the spacious “Heaven I Know,” indiepop/folktronica singer Gordi creates her own ritual chant – a varied, breathless count of “123,” that guides her as she faces a breakup with a friend. Her striking contralto tenor pushes up against mournful, yet triumphant horns and drums, resulting in a measured peacefulness found throughout her debut, Reservoir. Gordi’s brooding, deeply feminine and emotionally heavy voice is a refuge and a solace in the album – an iron anchor in a sea of doubts.
Gordi, also known as Sophie Payten, hails from a rural farm called Alfalfa in Canowindra, South Wales, Australia. For her early inspirations, Payten turned to folk and pop music storytellers like Billy Joel, Carole King and James Taylor. Her debut culls from those influences as well as her own collection of meditative thoughts, where she retreats to contemplate and sow inspiration for her music. Writing powerful pop ballads about a failed platonic relationship, one sabotaged by distance, is part of what makes Reservoir stand out.
The emphasis on this sense of loss and heartbreak is a common thread. She acknowledges her troublesome mixed messages on “On My Side,” and realizes she does need help (“I’ll stay, I’ll go, I’ll tell you I mean no/But I need you on my side”). But she’s also steadfast when it comes to her need to experience suffering (“Don’t deny me my bitter end,” she repeats on “Bitter End.”)
There’s a lot of clashes and flourishes that ground Reservoir in contemporary, radio-friendly songs while keeping it away from well-worn pop tropes. Electro-pop sounds play against the warmth of unadorned piano notes throughout Reservoir, which Gordi complements with addictive melodic harmonies. Songs like “Can We Work It Out,” “All the Light We Cannot See” and “On My Side” incorporate natural acoustic flourishes and big percussive splashes reminiscent of that ‘80s, big, Phil Collins sound.
Gordi’s electrofolk influences also add a sense of mystery and quirkiness to Reservoir; she sings alongside a 1980s-era computerized voice on “Myriad,” for example. Buzzes, whirrs and random ambient sounds often appear, with her sometimes drifting in and out of loops and manipulations. But even on the ethereal and moody electronic opener “Long Way,” she reassures us that we’re still human, that we should “take a breath.”
To listen to Reservoir is to listen to Gordi wade through her own burdensome emotional waters and carry the broken remnants of her thoughts and feelings back to shore with her, to be later sorted, documented, and put neatly away. “I’ll rest my head ‘cause I’m finished now,” she says on “I’m Done.” Reservoir is this folktronica artist’s unique way of healing.