One listen to this timeless, stirring album and you’ll finally be in on one of the best-kept secrets in Austin. While I sit quietly in a coffee shop on the south side of Austin, Balmorhea’s Aisha Burns lights up my headphones with her dynamic and powerful voice that seemingly stops time. It’s not a record you can just put on in the background and drift off to; the intensely intimate atmosphere and almost unnerving stillness encompassed in this collection of tracks is what makes Aisha Burns’s first solo LP, Life in the Midwater, so special. It is as if she and I are set up in the corner of this coffee shop room, her telling me these raw, eloquent stories.
To say her lyrics are thoughtful, or even introspective, is an understatement. “Discerpo” was the first track in which I listened, paused and restarted immediately to catch all of the words. The chorus slips in ever-so subtly “I could pave every road / spare every dime / confess my love a thousand times / you’ll only do just what you like, you’ll only do just what you like.” Small, mellifluous gems are sprinkled throughout, like, “Solitary is my ship, my life” or “Spinning silk so low / its web so fine / you’re limbs entwined / helpless by design,” cementing her as a tenacious musical artist and poet alike.
“Requiem” is a track that is, perhaps, the perfect example of the how album as a whole succeeds. With its flawless flow of words over strings, the slight beat of a drum in the middle carrying the lyrics from the first section to the second, and its understated, yet robust finish, it is emblematic of the magnetic, easy flow of the whole album. I loved “Destroyer” as the penultimate track, as it contains the most tangible energy of any song. The unexpected scratch of the violin halfway through picked up the pace and picked up the album as a whole, thus allowing the tone to meaningfully drop a bit in “Nothing”, the final track. The last thing you hear is her harmonizing with the instruments, fading into…nothing.
Life in the Midwater is truly a work of art. And it shows how ready Aisha Burns is to burst out of her comfort zone and share this voice that everyone should be listening to.
– Bailey Cool