Album Review: body / negative – everett

[Track Number; 2023]

With a handheld recorder pointed at the world, Andy Schiaffino captures the hum of their surroundings; creaks, hisses, half-heard conversations, and distant trills of a city. Under their body / negative moniker, they make music that weaves all these noises into an adaptable and blossoming lo-fi style. With their signature 1960s Wurlitzer 200a and a landline-style handset in lieu of a conventional microphone, their music revels in texture; it’s music made from and for quiet dark rooms.

Originally set to be recorded in New Mexico, everett was instead written and recorded while Schiaffino looked after their terminally ill father in a hospice. Dedicated in its entirety to their late mother and father, everett’s heart is wrapped up in grief and sadness. Incorporating field recordings from Amulet’s Randall Taylor, “sleepy” flickers like an old home movie playing from a projector while “fraidy cat”’s spoiled and water-damaged texture evokes the experimental solo work of Kría Brekkan and the haunting air of very early recordings, like it’s some old buried wax record found in an attic. A surprising and sparse Britney Spears cover at the centre of the album (“everytime”) even carries a mournful and nostalgic air, the lyrics easily turned into odes for Schiaffino’s parents; “I make-believe / That you are here / It’s the only way / That I see clear”.

Hope and light still emerge though, particularly as the album progresses towards its final stretch. “ataraxia” and “everett” are two of three tracks on the album featuring Madeline Johnston under the moniker Midwife (who also co-produces), and they lean more into a shoegaze influence to emulate an illuminating effect. “everett” in particular is wrapped up in soft guitar fuzz while Schiaffino’s voice is a dreamy perfume that passes through the music; it’s like sun breaking through the storm clouds. Elsewhere “persimmon” calls on extra guitar from Ancestor’s Justin Maranga, creating an oscillating effect as the music spins and crescendos (evoking Sigur Rós’ original version of “Hafssól” as well as the dizzying effect from Andrew Bird’s Janus Spinning Horns from his live shows). 

Take everett as a record of working through despair and loss, then. It mines dark ambient territory with the likes of “faun and fawn” (again, evoking Von with its eerie faraway alien wails and prickly audio hiss), traverses through gloomy lo-fi pop (“everytime”), and finds a path towards a auspicious and brighter future (“ataraxia”, “everett”).

It’s also a notable step forward for Schiaffino as body / negative. everett carries forward their collaborative ethos, again working with a number of artists they admire and stylistically fuse well with (Slowdive’s Simon Scott does a great job unfurling the velvety layers from his mastering deck), but the album also expands outwards. It’s more varied and engrossing than 2020’s lean and extremely brief Fragments, and while there are moments here which pass by without much to say (“flowers (the proverbial you)”, “fraidy cat”), overall Schiaffino feels like they are creating with greater purpose. The room is still quiet and dark, but the sunrise is definitely peeking and peering through the curtains.