When it comes to describing CN Lester’s music, there aren’t enough adjectives synonymous with ‘gorgeous’. We ‘re only resisting that much maligned phrase ‘achingly beautiful’ by sitting on our hands. Inadequate adjectives aside, Aether, the second album from the artist, blogger and trans activist really is a thing of loveliness that will have fans of Tori Amos fainting in the aisles. Brooding, seductive, rolling piano arpeggios intertwine with deep, breathy vocals via very simple production. There’s little irony or post-modern smugness here – CN specialises in brave, confessional, highly poetic lyrics of the type best listened to when alone and contemplative.
Beginning with the dramatic, minor-keyed ‘Lockdown’, Aether might first appear a rather serious record. A move into the higher register and a shift in keys, however, provides one of many moments of sunshine and light that adds just enough relief to the shade. Next track, ‘Sparks’, fades in with a chord sequence and effect on the piano strongly redolent of Amos during her Under the Pink phase but is soon reclaimed through the highly distinctive vocal and strong, imaginative melody.
Lyrically, Aether is intensely personal; ‘You’, in particular, is full of all the words unsaid (‘If only you’d know… how you look to me’) and the intensity and uncertainty of intimacy (‘Time slows down/It pulls me round/Watching you as you’re watching me.’) The album concludes with the eponymous track – one of the strongest melodically and a perfect showcase for their vocal range (CN prefers the gender neutral pronoun ‘they’). Aether follows CN’s debut, self-released record Ashes which established them as an artist of immense, gimmick-free talent and ability. Already well established on the LGBT and queer arts scene, it really is time for the rest of the world to sit up and notice this extraordinarily gifted musician and performer.