Maria BC signs to Sacred Bones and announces new album 'Spike Field' out Oct 20th. Shares dual single "Amber/ Watcher".
Europe & UK tour dates announced.
Maria BC’s previous work found the Bay Area singer-songwriter crafting haunting tracks that played like they were being beamed from the heart of some mystical, cobwebbed attic. Today, BC announces their sophomore LP, Spike Field, out October 20, along with their signing to staple Brooklyn label, Sacred Bones. As well as this, BC has announced a run of European tour dates with UK shows later this year.
The news is accompanied by the dual single "Amber / Watcher". “Amber” lays eerie key notes atop a bed of gossamer vocals and creaky acoustic guitar. “Watcher” has a comparably pastoral tint, carried by lush voice arrangements and nostalgic piano chords. Both tracks find BC pushing their gauzy formula into increasingly manicured terrain, capturing the sound of a young artist who has quickly honed a singular voice.
On the track, "Amber" Maria BC offers:
“Make the mirrors windows” - this line sums up the whole song. I’m reaching out to you so that you might draw me out of myself, out of fear and self-scrutiny, into connection and desire. It’s a love song."
On “Amber,” the lyrics are about reaching out to receive connection; here, the lyrics are about anticipating that gesture and preemptively reaching down in recognition, like, “I see you’re in pain, I’m here for you. I’m sorry it’s taken so long.”
But unlike in “Amber,” that moment of connection never comes. You can’t wish someone’s pain away. You can bear witness to them, but validation can’t undo the past. You have to hold it together, and hold them. It’s difficult.
Sometimes you run out of words, like in this song, which opens with this grandiose angelic choir and then just kind of...trails off."
In the early 1990s, a team of linguists, engineers, anthropologists, and archaeologists were tasked with constructing a type of communication that could transcend time. How might we converse with future civilisations when language may evolve or dissolve entirely? The result yielded the design of spike fields; a strange construction of granite thorns bursting from the earth to alert its viewers to the deadly uninhabitability of nuclear waste disposal sites. For Maria BC (they/them), this state of temporal focus molds the wanderings on their second full length album Spike Field. How do we connect with the weathered shadow of our experience, while envisioning the self a few steps ahead of us?
Spike Field amplifies the conflicting nature of wanting to both kill and honour our past. It investigates failures of communication, within ourselves and with others, by unfurling the catharsis of reckoning with what has gone before. While their debut album Hyaline (2022, Father/Daughter) explored grief and anxiety through a series of character-led accounts, Spike Field recognizes that our histories will continue to lurk below the surface until we decide to break through the soil.
“I had a very strong tendency to want to destroy any previous version of me,” they explain. “I wanted to erase the memories of anyone who knew me more than a year ago. It’s the effect of shame.”
To work against, or rather, alongside this shame, Maria BC decided to try and incorporate every and all parts of themselves into the LP. On the album’s title track, the Ohio-born, Oakland, CA-based artist imagines what the sign would read at a spike field, warning its viewers of the waste below the foundation. This waste, Maria BC says, is akin to our past but still, we must reckon with it in order to move on. Hazy, lethargic tolls dance alongside echoing keys, as their irregularity begins to softly shift into a sole, sparkling instrumentation. It’s not until the song’s final moments that Maria BC’s vocals enter into the arrangement, as if giving themselves space to form the right language.
“Still” resurrects a piano accompaniment that Maria BC wrote when they were 16, in an effort to extend a tenderness to their previous artistic explorations.
“Even though I'm absolutely humiliated by the work that I made when I was a teenager, I also wanted to see if I could alleviate that fear by looking for seeds of sounds in past work,”
These seeds extended a wider sonic approach to Spike Field as a whole, as Maria BC soaked their arrangements in a denser and more kaleidoscopic way than any of their previous work. Describing it as “filling out the sonic space,” Spike Field builds on the intimacy of Hyaline through liberating instrumental embellishments.
The artist has slowly opened up their process over the years, moving from the one-room recording process of 2021 EP Devil’s Rain––careful not to disturb their roommates or neighbors––to the untreated apartment wanderings of Hyaline, Spike Field was recorded in the home of a family friend. The home featured an out-of-tune baby Steinway piano, complete with squeaky hammers and strange, sporadic sounds. The piano is sprinkled throughout the album, and features extensively on opener “Amber,” showcasing Maria BC’s looser, more extensive arrangements.
The song flickers with electronic wonder, like a wave seeking out its station, before crashing into the angelic choral introduction of “Watcher”. Maria BC enlisted the help of two of their closest friends to add vocals, decorating a story of watching a loved one go through a painful, difficult time.
“It's about confronting other people's pain and figuring out how best to show up for them,”
Strings, plucked guitar and buzzing swells accompany their classically-trained mezzo-soprano voice on “Return to Sender,” a song that focuses on the frustrations and turmoil of being unable to reach a loved one––both physically and emotionally.
The beautifully dark underbelly of “Mercury” investigates those who seek out self-destructive behavior in order to kill off a part of themselves, but how these experiences, especially when done communally, can be ecstatic, wonderful healing moments.
As “Mercury” transitions into closer “Spike Field,” we’re reminded that we cannot kill off the path that has gone before because it lives with us, in the ground, in our foundation.
“It's whether we want to listen to it, face it, coexist with it or not,”
Spike Field reminds us that despite our best efforts to bury certain aspects of ourselves, they will always lurk beneath the surface. Instead of ignoring the seeds striving to break through, we can point to these places with a curious grace, concocting a language that transcends words to converse with our previous selves.
Maria BC pieces together juxtaposing sonic landscapes and oscillating vocals to represent the thread of miscommunication, or the failure of words, that weaves throughout the album, transforming it into a distinct and ever-evolving sonic tongue. If we listen, we might find something new within ourselves.
Photo credit: Damien Maloney
Pre-order album here
25.10.23 - Portugal, Lisbon, ZDB
26.10.23 - Belgium, Brussels, Botanique
27.10.23 - Netherlands, Amsterdam, London Calling
28.10.23 - UK, London, MIRRORS Festival
29.10.23 - UK, Bristol, Crofters Right
30.10.23 - UK, Glasgow, Glad Cafe
31.10.23 - UK, Leeds, Headrow House
01.11.23 - UK, Manchester, Soup Kitchen
02.11.23 - UK, Brighton, Mutations Festival
03.11.23 - UK, London, Rough Trade West (instore)