Grisaille, which translates from French as “greyness,” emerged centuries ago as artists grew frustrated by the lack of depth in their paintings. Starting with a light base, they would layer shadow and highlights using a monochromatic palette, building dimension so their canvas looked sculptural, as if chiseled from marble slabs. The austere technique serves as a guide to Rainy Miller and Space Afrika’s new collaborative project A Grisaille Wedding, a smoldering, overcast electronic album that casts overwhelming emotions into stark relief.
Miller and Space Afrika shape each composition around a single concept, slowly adding elements to fill the surrounding space. The songs, a blend of gossamer ambient pop and thunderous hip-hop, wrench at themselves, tugging between softer and heavier sounds. The bleary-eyed “00-down / Murmansk 12” employs the bleak winter boom of 2010s Chicago drill to tamp down a reversed melody line; “Maybe It’s Time to Lay Down the Arms” threads candlelit samples through a rickety trip-hop beat that constantly threatens to fall apart. “The Graves of Charleroi” would be a delicate, meandering folk tune if not for its crashing strings and reverberant vocal loops, crushing the air out of the guitars and inducing a sense of claustrophobia.
The vocals work more as texture than narrative advancement, but occasional glimpses suffuse the album with yearning. On “Sweet (I’m Free),” guest RezNiro proclaims that “life is absurd,” peeking out from the maelstrom of overdriven drones and feedback stabs; Iceboy Violet’s distorted, double-time flow is another spinning gear propelling the track to its explosive conclusion. The album holds space for both heaviness and hope: When Miller repeats “They told me” in the middle of “Maybe It’s Time to Lay Down the Arms,” he sounds flat and dissociative, as if parsing a truth that his brain won’t process.
The album’s most poignant song, “Let It Die,” moves from hushed beauty to total obliteration over the course of its six minutes. The sustained keyboards, slightly frayed at the edges, slowly accumulate; it’s hard to catch everything Miller sings, but even through the processing effects’ alien haze, it’s impossible to miss the ratcheting passion in his delivery. The reverb begins to yawn, swallowing everything, and noise serrates all the synths until the track peaks in an enormous, blistering swirl. It’s an IMAX screen of emotion, overwhelming and cathartic. As it winds down, you’re left drained—not hollow or empty, but cleared, ready for what’s next.