Eartheater songs, which reference chrysalises, diamonds, and other natural symbols of metamorphosis, sound like they emerge from an analogous process of transformation. Alexandra Drewchin takes amorphous elements and alters them into something rare and precious, incorporating grinding digital noise and austere beats into works of ornate avant-pop. Over the years she has steadily centered her voice as her primary instrument, the centrifugal force pulling together the dissonant pieces of her tracks. On her sixth album Powders, the first of twin records, she gets the closest she has to mainstream pop, exploring more traditional song structures and less adorned production.
When Drewchin approached pop in the past, it was typically in the form of absurd meditations on attraction; she told a partner to “grow gills, bring a snorkel” on 2019’s “Supersoaker.” On Powders, Drewchin aims to capture the transformative power of love. Flute arpeggios shoot out from under trembling synths as she details total rapture on opener “Sugarcane Switch”: “Put the sun to sleep, he’s tired/And I’m awake and inspired.” The lovestruck mood continues onto “Crushing,” an ambling trip-hop ballad composed of a series of interlocking lyrics, the end of each line becoming the beginning of the next. “You’re the fuse that detonates my body/You’re the body that blows my mind,” she sings. It’s a song that could reasonably keep going until language runs out. The two tracks are some of Drewchin’s best work as Eartheater, showcasing her skill for guiding surreal beauty out of sprawling, fluid arrangements.
Drewchin’s voice—sometimes multi-layered and distorted, other times untouched—has been her anchor since her solo debut Metalepsis in 2015. On Powders, it takes on a more prominent role, less processed than on previous records. While her performance is often impressive, her voice can feel trapped within the album’s more structured writing. On “Mona Lisa Moan” and “Pure Smile Snake Venom,” two of the most by-the-book songs Drewchin has ever released, her delivery sounds dulled, especially in contrast to the album’s radiant beginning.
In exploring her primary interest, a person’s capacity for change, Drewchin routinely evokes violence. It’s present in her monstrous stage name and was central to her last album, 2020’s Phoenix: Flames Are Dew Upon My Skin. It’s present in System Of A Down’s nu-metal classic “Chop Suey!,” which she covers halfway through Powders, singing of “self-righteous suicide” and dying angels. But instead of staying true to the original, Drewchin drains the song of its aggression, pairing her quiet voice with a simple guitar melody before the song blooms with percussion and piano. Transformation can be brutal, she seems to imply, but the most radical change can also be lovely and gentle.