After teasing several of its tracks at the tail end of last year, Bristol-based songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist Billy Nomates (a.k.a Tor Maries) returns with her much anticipated second album, CACTI.
CACTI follows Nomates’ satire-soaked, self-titled debut – a second offering which plays as an exploration of one person’s vulnerabilities and slowly but surely breaking through them.
Written against the backdrop of the world reopening after Covid, the album grapples with feeling off-kilter through the synth-heavy opener ‘balance is gone’ – a strong start to the album. Its entertaining and engaging, a rock-inspired sound which proves captivating until the final “I just go round and round” is uttered.
From the bass-lead ‘black curtains in the bag’ to the distorted chords of single ‘spite’, each track is composed with precise production and well-crafted vocals, each guitar hook and drum beat mixing Maries’ rock sensibilities with electronic and pop flourishes. She shines on fifth track ‘saboteur force field’, a deeply introspective number underpinned by wavy synths and soaring guitars. Undeniably catchy as it may be, ‘saboteur force field’ also serves as proof that this album is as much about exploring emotions as it is about creating crowd pleasers.
Whilst keeping to Maries’ rock roots, CACTI tiptoes into other genres through the balladry of ‘roundabout sadness’ at its midway point. Coupled with the softer tones of ‘fawner’, this is not an artist who is afraid to experiment with her sound (despite only being two albums in) or bring her emotions to the surface.
After a handful of introspective cuts, the thumping beat that underpins album closer ‘blackout signal’ grips the listener from the offset, threaded with an infectious twinkle of synth. It begins unassumingly before exploding with raw, emotive vocals which take the listener to dizzying heights until coming to an abrupt halt.
Much like its namesake, CACTI proves spikey with its roaring rock bite and satisfying synths. When these layers are peeled back and Nomates’ mask is lowered, particularly during the softer tracks, it proves to be a personal, emotional and memorable record.
CACTI is out Friday via Invada Records
photo credit: Eddie Whelan