In This Year: Hierophant

Hand Drawn Dracula • 2022

In This Year: Hierophant is a dark, stylized and highly theatrical treat for your senses and sensibilities.

According to the Tarot (as per the internet), 2021 is a Hierophant year. The word hierophant can be interpreted as “the displayer of sacred things” and represents an intermediary between mortals and the divine. Some Tarot decks refer to the hierophant as the Pope, someone representing the patriarchy who controls those with less power and agency through religious traditions and rules with authority. But let’s not go there. Instead, let us consider the other side of the hierophant: a wise and learned teacher, representing knowledge that supports and sustains both our body and soul.

There’s no more perfect hierophant stand-in than Jesse Crowe of Praises. As part of their practice, Crowe draws upon a Tarot card at the start of each year and project, which explains the title of their recently released sophomore record, In This Year: Hierophant. Crowe serves as both narrator and navigator throughout the album, using their mesmerizing voice as a guide through textured and layered arrangements of synths, flutes, strings, and piano. The lush arrangements are essentially thanks to Praises’ full band set-up, which includes Crowe’s long-time collaborator and former Beliefs bandmate Josh Korody (Breeze), Andrew Lacombe, Braeden Craig, James Kearns, Julia Wittmann, Kristina Koski, Michael Boyd, and Sachin Mohindra. 

The players infuse macabre tunes like “The Dancer” with intoxicating allure. As Crowe intones, “I told her I’d lick my own wounds but I can’t reach them,” the band ratchets up the tension. As the rhythm section thickens and sounds like it’s decomposing, a swirl of flute and pick slide guitar valiantly keep the song afloat. I can imagine the jazz-infused “Peace of Mind” soundtracking a David Lynch film, all smoky, sultry, and unabashedly sinister. “Life is Just a Picture” is closer in sound and style to Praises’ early, industrial synth sound, a gathering storm whose clouds darken the skies but never let you feel the full brunt of their fury. It’s indicative of many songs on In This Year: Hierophant in that the band’s prowess is on full display, but they keep their power in check. 

Crowe’s lyrics, “flirting with vignettes of hidden gender, through the birth of a child, a poisonous new world, matriarchal death, and transcendent love,” might feel at turns impenetrable for those that need to know what they’re singing about. But like the wise and learned hierophant they are, Crowe knows we will glean more from the experience of the songs as opposed to understanding their meaning. In the same line as performers like Patti Smith and Laurie Anderson, Crowe’s turns of phrases, their intonations and poetic imagery offer listeners glimpses at both the sacred and profane. In This Year: Hierophant is a dark, stylized and highly theatrical treat for your senses and sensibilities.

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