Album Review: Josin - In The Blank Space
Arabella Rauch, who records under the name Josin, was born to a German father and Korean mother – both of whom are opera singers. Clearly she has quite a lot to live up to in her music, and perhaps this is why she at first sought to avoid it by following a path towards a career in medicine – until music inevitably called her back again. Now she has released her debut album In The Blank Space, which marries her musical upbringing with a deep and poignant emotion in consistently magical ways.
Her parents’ shadows aren’t the only ones looming over her work, and the other is so obvious that we might as well get it out of the way early: the Thom Yorke comparisons are practically unavoidable. Not only does Rauch’s yawning and wide-ranging falsetto have an uncanny similarity to the Radiohead singer, but the icy synth soundscapes that she creates are not dissimilar to the band’s Kid A and Amnesiac albums. Let’s also be clear about something else: this is a compliment of the highest order – made even more impressive by the fact that In The Blank Space still stands as a strong artistic statement, even with these inevitable comparisons.
The wizardry of Josin’s music comes from the symbiosis between her compositions and the emotional weight of her expression. The Blank Space of the title is a “a state where you actually want to get lost in a space, because that nothingness is full of everything,” according to the artist, and this chasm-like negative space is wonderfully described by the grandiose and engulfing synth-and-string-led tracks she has composed. Each song on the album feels like an expedition into the Blank Space, but each time the emotion that comes resonating back from the void is slightly different.
‘Once Apart’ finds Josin expressing an expanding emotional distance between lovers, and the weakening gravity between the two bodies. The sadness of the feeling is perfectly captured by her trundling piano melody, threaded through by her rich vocal. Just when you think ‘Once Apart’ will remain a simple piece, a tripping drum line comes in which wrenches open the song, stretching Josin’s emotions to breaking point in a heartbreaking falsetto. On ‘Burning (For A New Start)’, Josin is fixated on the minor issues that will inevitably build up into a cataclysmic finale for the Earth, and it’s all captured in a graceful time-compressing sweep by Josin’s softly combusting arrangement. Nature is often reflected in Josin’s songs, and whether it’s metaphorical or literal, it’s a rich area for her musical and mental explorations. These naturalistic moments provide some of the album’s most stark and cerebral moments in ‘Evaporation’ and ‘Oceans Wait’.
Other notable moments on the album occur when Josin ups the energy, seemingly determined to fight back against the near-constant gloom of her poisonous thoughts. 'Healing' is a hypnotic trance number in which she's being dragged down into the abyss, but after a free-floating moment, drums and violins seem to reach out and grab her back from the edge of destruction, leading to a resounding and burbling finale. ‘Feral Thing’ is another fine example of her determination, where a skittering beat lulls you into the same floating feeling, before it morphs into a more hard-hitting and sharp-edged rhythm that jilts you out of the fuzz. Similarly, ‘Company’ morphs from an aqueous synth drawl into a marching and imposing crescendo, which seems set to become the stand-out moment of her live shows.
In The Blank Space ends with ‘Backing Line’, an angelically dejected track that feels like watching an infinite sunset refracted back off an icy tundra. It’s like the final submission to the void, an acceptance that the Blank Space’s infinitude has swallowed you whole and you’ll be stuck there forever. However, if Josin’s In The Blank Space is there to comfort and console us while we exist in this chasm, we might not feel so alone or hopeless after all.
This article was originally published on The 405 - 31st January 2019.