Maple Glider – the moniker of Melbourne resident Tori Zietsch – has a voice and delivery that is like someone whispering softly in your ear: it’s close and warm and very personal. There is a delicious immediacy to her music – recalling that Danish concept of Hyyge – a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being. And yet an air of melancholy – sweet and enthralling – pervades the album.
Her new album ‘To Enjoy is the Only Thing’ was written while away from her Melbourne home in Brighton in the UK – maybe explaining the sense of isolation that seems to filter through the tracks of this impossibly beautiful album.
Opening track ‘As Tradition’ is graceful and melancholic: Zeitsch’s voice really does glide with a clarity and a luminescence. The quite, reflective pace and muted instrumentation serves the voice: a crystal clear undercurrent that flows behind her extraordinary vocals. The lyrics are romantic yet edged with a certain dissociative dissonance:
Come to me pretty, pull back my limbs, It’s the oldest tradition known to my skin
I can be soft, when I am disarmed, I can be just what you want
The soft melodic style of Maple Glider is highlighted in ‘Swimming’ – there is haunting element to the vocals which rest on a bed of arpeggiated guitars softly humming below the surface, with a vaulting, scaling chorus. A thread of utterly divine yearning and sense of regret is deeply enfolded in the fabric of the song. There is a sensuous and sinuous colour to the lyrics:
You pressed your hands against the darkest spaces of my skin, Tell me my body has been so beautifully lived in
I almost fell apart when you looked straight at my heart
And said baby, swim.
Expressive and deeply personal glimpses that are endearing and affecting.
Maple Glider’s folk style is no more evident than in ‘View From This Side’ and ‘Friend’: simple plucked and rolling guitar and Zeitsch’s voice ringing like a bell – augmented by distant backing vocals creating a ghostly aura.
Double tracked vocals in ‘Be Mean, It’s Kinder Than Crying’ create a mysterious and dreamy aura as Zeitsch seeks redemption:
I know I’ve done a terrible thing I’ve lived in my sins
And begged for forgiveness
Maple Glider has an ear for indelible and delicate tunes – ‘Good Thing’ is filled with a celestial melodies while the instrumentation slowly ascends into something driving and anthemic:
‘Baby Tiger’ is fragile and beautiful: Glider’s voice a delicate whisper across a simple acoustic guitar and piano base: sparse and atmospheric and filled with a sense of pain and resolution.
There is a haunting, elegiac feel to the track (with the video, starring Zeitsch’s flatmate’s delightful cat Coriander), reflecting Zietsch’s own challenges after spending time in the UK:
‘Baby Tiger’ was written soon after I’d returned home from Brighton. I was really struggling with my mental health, but I was going out and kind of using dating as a distraction from dealing with it. It never really worked. I’d just end up feeling worse when I was alone. Coriander hates closed doors. She’ll always want to know what you’re doing on the other side. It kind of became comforting to hear her scratch at my door. It was something that felt constant and unwavering and regular at a time when I was a bit vacant. Her energy made me feel lighter. I’m very detached from the ‘man’ I address in the song, but I beg for him to comfort me. Though I am feeling unwell, I am pretty certain that it is temporary. I know that ‘I’ll come back to me soon.’ My housemate says she sees this as a kind of happy song because it features Coriander, and I really love that perspective, because even though I was in a bad place when I wrote it, there is an element of hopefulness.
The expression is ultimately one of empowerment and survival through difficult times, a relatable emotion given the vicissitudes of the past 18 months. There is an exquisite and moving expression in the lyrics, simple, proud and stoic:
Baby Tiger’s scratching at the door
Someone she hasn’t seen before
I’m okay Baby Tiger
‘To Enjoy is the Only Thing’ is magnificent collection of pieces of Nietsch’s life in exile – torn between the adventures of another life yet constantly drawn to the anchorage of home. It perfectly captures in the delicate vocals the sense of introspection and alienation in a strange place, and yet throughout there is antithetically a close and enveloping sense of comfort and self expression, as well as a sense of connection:
Must I bring my own torch?
Or are you gonna come and
Light me up
There are undeniably threads in style that lead to Lana Del Rey and Pheobe Bridgers, but no more than a passing singular link. Maple Glider is unique and very special: the album is a beautiful collection of sparkling pieces from deep inside her heart imbued with love, loss and isolation.
Maple Glider will be touring across Australia over the next few months starting at the end of July in Melbourne – details and tickets available here (COVID willing).
Feature Photograph: Bridgette Winten