Maxine Funke is a singer songwriter from New Zealand and on Seance she’s conjured something quietly, unsettingly beautiful that demands its own space.
On her fourth solo long player (she was also in the bands The Snares and $100 Band), Funke’s spidery, spindly guitar playing has filled the spectrum a little more, her songs breathing easier and with more developed internal narratives. Her music is fragile, delicate and yet quietly confident and defiant. The guitar accompaniment to her voice, an intimate instrument cooing and whispering into the mic, is minimal and precise leaving the words to land with a lightness of touch that belies the poetry of them.
Like say Vashti Bunyan or Sibylle Baier, she’s carving out understated narratives with each song that feel heavy with experience and memory. Autumnal leaves rustling still on the branch waiting to fall, the swell of a sea threatening the coast but kept at bay. Like those pioneers of fragile, powerful songwriting, Funke seems to tightrope walk the line between devastating emotional heft and a breezy delivery and the two serve eachother well. On Fairy Baby, the intimate tape hiss bleeds into a fairytale lullaby with twisting imagery evoking wine red seas, stars piercing beachy sky and a guitar playing that poses questions, never resolving, suggesting new emotional hues rather than delivering resolution. “It’s concealed, it’s concealed…” Funke sings.
Quiet Shore feels exactly like Maxine Funke by the sea serenading the tide, the waves ebbing and flowing next to her heel. On Lucky Penny there’s a to-die-for melodic hook that makes full use of Funke’s understated, melifluous voice and Kiwi accent. The way she can curl a word like “jing-a-ling” would melt ice in winter. The drum machine and spoken word intro to Moody Relish unfurls a psychedelic narrative before exhaling out a warm, spine-tingling organ and harmony accompaniment.
There are moments on Seance where the album title feels prescient. Funke’s presence on the album is so dichotomous: on one hand it’s all her work, the microphone picking up every detail of her strum and vocal chords and yet her authorial voice seems ready to drift into the nocturnal ether. She’s there, but she leaves plenty of space for the listener. It’s a quality she shares with the singer who perhaps has the closest approximation of her voice, Bridget St. John, though Funke’s compositions are more open and intimate. On the final track of the album, Goodbye, her shifting guitar chord arpeggios reach perfect symbiosis with her vocal: “I’m not sure but if I leave a trail of breadcrumbs would you like, because I wish to be notice, I wish to be seen”
Understated and quietly brilliant, Maxine Funke’s is a voice that doesn’t shout for your attention, it’s an invite into a near-mystical private world between fairytale and empirical, real-world beauty.
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