Daughter’s Elena Tonra solo project came out of the blue, announced under the creative moniker of Ex:Re with a debut single and the release of an eponymous LP. Full surprise pack, I dare say, after a few years spent by the artist crafting the finest indie folk and making a name for one of the breakthrough project of the British indie scene. North London native Elena chose to go solo, and in a quite unexpected way, with an album (out through 4AD) that sounds like a courageous statement, as Tonra stated: “made out of devastation”.
Ex:Re’s journey is just under one hour, and depicts the fragility and fear that accompanied the artist through the end of a long-lasting relationship. Anticipated by the brilliant lead single ‘Romance’, the record is overall a polished combination of experimental melancholia and smart architectures of melodies. It reaches picks and changes of tone that make clear how Tonra’s work, created with the precious support of Fabian Prynn (4AD’s in-house engineer and producer) and composer Josephine Stephenson on cello, wishes to shine its own light.
It does so from the darkness, let’s be clear, for the atmosphere of the full journey encompasses hypnotic bass lines and arrangements that put depressed patterns of guitar and piano at the forefront. Some little gems, like the opener ‘Where The Time Went’ and – most of all – ‘The Dazzler’, set the tone. Other episodes, like ‘Liar’ (explorative trip-hop element) or ‘5 AM’ of which elements of dusty post-punk emerge, are other cathartic moments. However, the LP doesn’t keep the same pace throughout, losing intensity and impact here and there.
‘Ex:Re’ (pronounced ex ray) is an abbreviation of “regarding ex”. It can also mean X-Ray, therefore combining the poignant atmosphere of the record with a more introspective and personal dimension that reflect Tonra’s mind space. Needless to say, this is a deeply personal work, diligently composed and carefully refined. In all fairness, it includes stunning moments, yet it may somehow not be fully convincing in the big picture. When looking for answers to heavy questions, or again when overthinking what it was and what – instead – could have worked differently.
4AD | 2018