Like their friends and collaborators in GothBoiClique (an emo rap iconoclast who counted Lil Peep as a member), Wicca Phase Springs Eternal has never been afraid of the dark. Born and raised a singer-songwriter, Adam McIlwee packs his songs with shredded self-loathing and grim vibes, elements of which he’s formerly associated with the lighthearted emo band Tigers Joe. He must have been influenced by what he was doing. But Wicca Phase’s music has always been somewhat more opaque and otherworldly than that of his peers. Although raw emotion, his songs are not didactic.
upon Full Moon Mystery GardenRecurring images throughout the record—lonely roads, quiet nights, portals to another realm—are evocative but never too specific. They’re mundane enough to make you feel at ease, but there’s enough terror to lurk in the shadows and make you uneasy. It’s a Lynchian journey down the Lost Highway, shrouded in mist. On the gaudy, poppy “Tonight I’m in Love on My Own,” he sums up the record’s allure in his one line.
McIlwee’s hazy abstractions are rarely as poignant as “Dark Region Road.” He prepares to descend into an underwater portal and his love washes over him. Throughout, his writing feels laborious and self-consciously poetic, but in a way that matches the serious intonation of his voice. and does it here too in a way that evokes the sacred music of the Middle Ages. A profane poem, its ominous consequences remain unknown.
This approach engulfs nearly every lyric in darkness, resulting in sharp moments of emotional clarity when McIlwee opens his mind. The simple, direct opening of “I Was on a Back Road by Myself” is a gentle meditation on loneliness that recalls the unscathed vulnerability of Phil Elbaum’s first record as Mount Erie.it’s powerful and serious Full Moon Mystery Garden Instead, it makes you feel like McIlwee is confiding in you — a tiny kernel of truth in the swirling angst of the entire record.
This satisfying use of contrast is also reflected in the record’s instrumentals. McIlwee and producer Garden Avenue alternate between the bruised beats, heavy drum & bass inflections and euphoric pop that have characterized his Wicca Phase releases in the past. In part, it’s no doubt catering to a variety of guests, from equally dejected GothBoiClique regulars like Fish Narc to kaleidoscopic pop mutators like 8485 and blackwinterwells, but the emotional The effects are profound. Tension and release exist in a delicate balance. In moments of abandonment as ecstatic as the dreamy “Hickory Grove,” there’s something a little more rigid and unsettling, like the hazy witch-house memory of “I am the Edge.” As a result, the record can be both terse and cold in places that are charming. It’s a compelling document of uncertainty from an artist who isn’t afraid to give a guided tour of the chaotic headspace in which he lives.