The Turning Wheel

Jun 24, 2021
Issue #68 – Japanese Breakfast and HAIM (The Protest Issue)

By Joey Arnone


If there is anyone that would be able to pull off creating a Broadway musical set in outer space, it would certainly have to be Chrystia Cabral (known by her wonky moniker SPELLLING). Cabral’s third LP, The Turning Wheel, sees her taking her affinity for campy theatrics and spacey sci-fi production seen on her previous two albums to another height, thus creating her most maximalist and lavish project yet.

The grandiosity of The Turning Wheel’s production can be heard from the very first track, “Little Deer,” with sweeping horn and string sections backdropping Cabral’s high-pitched vocal delivery, sounding almost as if she is singing to a classroom of children. The Lewis Carroll-esque, picture book quality to many of the album’s lyrics only enhances this effect, especially on a track like “Emperor with an Egg,” where she sings of a titular Emperor, who also happens to be a bird.

As much as Cabral loves to dabble in mythical and animalistic realms within her music and lyricism, she is just as keen at keeping things rooted in human matters, dealing with the difficulties of romantic relationships on songs such as “Always” and the title track “Turning Wheel.” The seven-and-a-half minute “Boys at School” finds Cabral dealing with the trials and tribulations of growing older from the point of view of an adolescent, and the rest of the album sees her finding and understanding her power in maturation with a haunted sense of enchantment.

The epic ending of “Magic Act” feels almost like a revamping of “Real Fun” from her previous album, Mazy Fly. Moments like this showcase Cabral’s love not only for in-your-face theatricality, but for fuzzy analog ’80s style pop and rock, creating a genre-defiant and utterly unique sonic marriage of both. The album is littered with a barrage of ghostly and reverb-laden foley effects, making it near impossible to not visualize the space in which her witchy, out-of-this-world performance would theoretically take place. This is Cabral’s show, and we’re all just spectators. (www.spellling.bandcamp.com)

Author rating: 7.5/10

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