All photos: Mal Bea
Like the phoenix that personifies her latest album, Eartheater rises – resisting definition and thriving on contingency.
Packed into the basement of LA’s iconic Jewel’s Catch One early this December, it felt like all of the energy in the world had coalesced to see Eartheater become herself. She has spent the last decade evading definition, walking a thin line between musician, experimental performance artist, and fashion force (she serves as both muse and sound designer to Parisian fashion label Mugler’s Creative Director, Casey Cadwallader). Her voice is what most of us know her by – with a three-octave range, she fluctuates effortlessly from guttural to ethereal. Though she may be a high-powered production, Eartheater is not a persona that turns off and on.
When Eartheater released her latest album, Phoenix: Flames Are Dew Upon My Skin (2020), it felt like a vehicle allowing me to be alone in my room with every other girl alone in their rooms, everywhere, together. Over the last decade, she has transitioned from making largely acoustic music to electronic music, but Phoenix, sentimental and sensual, marks a return to delicate stringed instruments.
Performances are a fragile alchemy; have a plan, maintain the mystery and keep your faith unwavering. But 30 seconds into the first track of Eartheater’s sold out LA performance, the power goes out. The phoenix is an age-old symbol of resurrection; a fitting symbol for an album that tracks the deepening of the artist's relationship to herself following the end of a significant relationship. How mystical that this debut of the project would present an opportunity to embody change itself, rather than simply perform an album about change. The room dampens briefly, but the audience motions: “Keep going”.
Prepared for the apocalypse, Eartheater unpacks her acoustic guitar and what was intended to be a high-powered production evolves into a delicate, stripped-down set. Hundreds of voices from the audience ring clear in the quiet, singing lyrics as if their own, mimicking the sounds of instruments missing alongside the electricity.
Power! She doesn't need it to resurrect from its ashes. The most precious and rare music survives, evidently, in its absence.
MAL BEA is a writer and photographer in Los Angeles.