Adalita

The release of Adalita’s eponymous debut album in 2011 marked the advent of a remarkable new phase in an already illustrious career. Initially conceived as a humble solo project, laboured over in isolation, the resulting album not only thrilled fans of the artist’s former band Magic Dirt, but also introduced her to a younger audience who weren’t necessarily aware of the enormous body of work she had accumulated since the early 1990s. The intense mood of ‘Adalita’ gained extra poignancy with the untimely death of Magic Dirt bassist Dean Turner, who greatly inspired and supported Adalita in stepping out on her own.

The public and critics were blown away by the raw and vital vision presented on ‘Adalita’, which dealt with weighty themes such as friendship, desire and mortality with an unflinching candor and humanity. The album entered the ARIA Album chart at #23 and went on to win the AIR award for Best Independent Album. ‘Adalita’ was shortlisted for the Australian Music Prize, while the songwriter was nominated in the Best Female artist category at last year’s ARIA Awards.

Away from the spotlight, the following two years represented a period of self-examination and personal growth for Adalita, which resulted in intense bursts of creativity. “I was travelling around, couch-hopping in Melbourne and Sydney. It was very high-octane, and I worked on the go a lot,” she explains.

Effortlessly treading the line between personal reflection and universal observation, the new album delves into the disintegration of romantic relationships. It consists of a song cycle which is a dark, brooding and unflinchingly honest examination of the capricious nature of the human heart. Drawing on her own experiences, Adalita paints a picture of the emotional tribulations which serve as an initiation into adulthood. From these trials by fire a more poised and self-confident woman is born – the ‘All Day Venus’.

“It is a very personal record to me, but I know that people will get different things out of it. The songs represent what I’ve been going through over the last couple of years. It’s a journey of psychological exploration, trying to understand my own behaviours and emotions. I wanted to document these new awakenings and transformations.”

Baring one’s soul in public can be very confronting for an artist, but Adalita remains philosophical about her choice of subject matter. “I’ve never felt strange about the personal nature of my songs. There are quite a few volatile emotions involved, but even with the passing of time, these are moments that deserve to be honoured. I lost a lot of innocence, but gained a lot of awareness through observing how I conduct myself in relationships.”

Sonically, ‘All Day Venus’ is quite a different beast to its predecessor’s concentration and serenity. “I got the urge to be loud again. There was no grand plan, but I knew that I wanted bass and drums on this record.”

To aid her in achieving the right balance between carefully crafted songwriting and muscular arrangements, Adalita enlisted the help of ex-Paradise Motel bassist Matt Bailey and no less than three powerhouse drummers – The Dirty Three’s Jim White, Hugo Cran of The Devastations, and Lee Parker of Melbourne underground rockers Spite House. A slightly more unusual inclusion is violinist Willow Stahlut, whom Adalita encountered busking in Melbourne’s Bourke Street Mall and invited into the studio.

This ambitious desire to flesh out her musical palette comes to the fore on a song like Trust Is Rust, where subtle touches of strings, piano and chiming guitar bolster a killer riff and soaring vocal melody to create a power-pop tour de force. Similarly, an almost orchestral swoon underpins the driving glam stomp of Warm Like You.

Despite its sonic richness, ‘All Day Venus’ remains essentially a solo album. “I was the creative overlord in terms of writing and arranging. Lee Parker wrote the drum part for My Ego, which really pushed that song over the line for me, and Jim White fleshed out Homesick, but for the most part I had everything written before we started recording.”

Produced by long-time Magic Dirt collaborator Lindsay Gravina, ‘All Day Venus’ is an album that rewards intensive listening in much the same way ‘Adalita’ did. “It’s like a movie or book with many chapters,” Adalita explains about the carefully considered flow of songs. “On the last record there was a lot of quietude and serenity. This one is cathartic in a different way. It is heavy in places, but I definitely wanted it to be upbeat and danceable too.”

There is no doubt that this is an album aimed equally at head, heart, hips and feet. ‘All Day Venus’ bursts with pent-up energy and physicality. From the steamroller distortion of Annihilate Baby to the uplifting melodicism of Blue Sky, the bare-bones emotion of He Wrote to the hypnotic wistfulness of closing track Rolled In Gold, this is a rollercoaster ride like no other.