TRACK REVIEW: Johanna Glaza - Space Mermaid



Johanna Glaza



Space Mermaid





Space Mermaid In is available via:


Ambient-Folk; Baroque-Folk


London, U.K.


3rd August, 2017


The album, Wild Sculptures, is available from:


IT is good to return to London and Folk…



because, for the past few days, I have been looking at international artists are all manner of genres. I will cover a bit of familiar ground when speaking of Johanna Glaza but, thinking about her song, Space Mermaid, there is plenty to discuss. Her L.P., Wind Sculptures, is a vivid and candid album that experiments and takes you to new places. It is rare finding artists that deliberately challenge conventions and create something genuinely new. For Glaza, there is a sense of going beyond the accepted and bringing her music forward. There is something beguiling and beautiful about the music but there’s a familiarity, too. I have been looking back at Folk and the kind of variations we find in the genre. It is hard to reinvent a genre like Folk but there are artists who are taking it to heart and creating something meaningful to them. Johanna Glaza is someone who does not produce stilted and calm music – quite relaxed without much physicality and spirituality. What she does it recognise the genre’s foundation and sprinkles her own personality and produce. I have been a bit reluctant to feature Folk artists who do not put much energy into their work. It can be hard offering any passion and insight if the music is pretty chilled and one-dimensional. There are too many artists doing this so it means Folk gets a reputation as being a bit wimpy and boring. If you look hard enough, you’ll find that is not the truth at all. This year has seen artists take Folk as a base and bring other genres into the mix. There is a difference between traditional Folk music and the more modern variety. If one listens to Folk shows on the radio and you will get the kind of music I was talking about – it is pretty to listen to but it can leave you a bit fatigued at the same time.



I listen to those shows and hear a lot of shanties and pastoral Folk acts. That is already for some but I feel you need to be of a certain age to enjoy it. For younger ears; one seeks a sense of endeavour and invention – a spark and sense of imagination that transcends beyond the quirky and dull. Johanna Glaza is an artist who appreciates where Folk has come from but is keen to drive it forward and provide something sizzling. She does this by clashing bracing and immediate sounds with mythical and poetic lyrics. I have just got through reviewing Robert Plant’s new album, Carry Fire, and can see parallels between that and a song like Space Mermaid. Plant, on his album, produces his traditional sense of the mystic and spiritual whilst throwing in different sounds and cultures. It is a busy and engaging album: taking the head somewhere special and ensuring you come back for more. That is the same with Glaza who provides symbolism and gives her voice to the wind. Some might turn their noses up when mentioning elements of nature and the physical world. One does not need to be a devotee of Folk to enjoy what Glaza is putting out there. She mixes in the base and roots of the genre but stretches it out and brings a spectrum of sounds and colours. Maybe it is not ‘Folk’ because it is such a broad and new sound. I will explore the music more, later, but I am excited to investigate the lyrics and themes explored by Glaza. When I look at what she concentrates on – water and snow; wolves and goddesses – it reminds me of Kate Bush. Maybe she is not a direct influence but it is hard to escape the spirit and body of Bush in the music. I am writing a piece about Kate Bush and her debut album, The Kick Inside.



The record is forty next year and I am keen to explore it in depth and how influential it is. Not that this review is a chance for me to self-promote and indulge but I can hear traces of The Kick Inside in Glaza’s work. Later works – like Hounds of Love and The Sensual World – explore spiritual elements and the natural world in more depth than the debut; it is intriguing seeing Bush’s trajectory and the themes she tackled in later works. It is the debut that seems to have started everything (obviously) and, whether modern artists confess or not, an album of enormous importance. I feel there are few modern artists who appreciate the importance and relevance of artists like Kate Bush. There are those who source from her but a lot of mainstream artists forsake her. If one listens to the sheer captivation and mesmeric sound of her debut then you will see so much room for interpretation and modern projection. In a world that is becoming more fraught and unsure by the day – there is a sense of escapism and purity in what Kate Bush sings about. I am not sure whether Johanna Glaza realised that but there are definite familiarities when I look at her lyrics. Vocally, they are different acts but it is the words that really stand out, for me. Before I come to look at other avenues – including Glaza’s nationality and base; staying human whilst exploring more extraordinary and flighty themes; making the music breathe but evocative; female artists and their importance right now; the personal relevance of music and evolving a career – I will finish off this segment. I am interesting seeing the split between artists who keep their words inherently personal and basic and those who go the other way. I guess, to connect with the listener more urgently, there needs to be familiarity and accessibility. It can be hard crafting music that separates from the pack but attracts people. You do not want to alienate but, at the same time, want to be seen as innovative and unique. That is what one gets from Johanna Glaza and her music.



This is not the first time I have featured a Lithuanian-born artist – the last one escapes me – but I am seeing a lot of artists come to the U.K. There are parts of the world that have some form of a music industry but not as solid and promising as it is here. Glaza has been raised in London but knows how important her home is. I wonder how much of the landscape and people of Lithuania Glaza brings to her music. I think of the nation and get a sense its geography and topography is more alluring and scenic than in the U.K. By that; one would see panoramic visions and a mix of the old and new worlds. We have some spectacular views in Britain but I feel Lithuania would surpass them. Maybe I am wrong but I can hear a link to her past and childhood. It is rare discovering musicians who bring fantasy and nature into their music. Comparisons have been made between Glaza and modern acts like Joanna Newsom. I can see that and there needs to be more vocalisation and promotion of acts like that – who stray from the mainstream and produce something different. I wonder what brought Glaza to London but I am not surprised she is here. I keep saying I’ll get away from the capital when it comes to features but there is a definite lure for new artists. The city provides the energy and opportunities many seek; the community and network to help get the music to the masses. Maybe there is a calmer and less stressful vibe elsewhere in the U.K. but London is the beating heart of British music. I am sure Glaza will find a lot of potential here and will continue to see her career grow. One hears Glaza’s new music and can see the development and evolution from the earliest days.



Although Glaza has not been in music that long; she has created a series of songs and records that showcase her full range and personality. What I have found is more confidence and bravery come into the music. There are flighty and wondrous moments alongside raw human emotions. I am listening to sounds from Letter to New York and Paper Widow and comparing them to Wind Sculptures. In terms of her artwork; there is that dependence on blue hues. The tie to the sea and sky is indelible. In everything she does; Glaza carries the world with her. If her themes and dynamics remain firm; it is the vocals and lyrics that get bolder and more arresting. Her voice has strengthened and taken in more emotions since 2014 (when those early releases arrived) and, on her latest album, one hears a performer who can be compared with very few. Reviewers have noticed how stirring and unconventional Glaza is. That has come from her music background and the backing she has already garnered. Every time her music gets a great reaction; Glaza will up her game and keep expanding her horizons. One hears that come through in her latest L.P. What I find is a song like Space Mermaid, in title and sound, nods its hat to acts like David Bowie. It is easy detecting an element of his eccentricity and innovation in the song; some Joanna Newsom and the beauty of Kate Bush. The music of Johanna Glaza is breathy and emotive but it has openness and expansive horizons. So many different concoctions and scenes are infused in every line. Some might say music that looks at the wind and weather sounds a bit kooky and niche – it will not appeal to that many people and has quite a divisive aspect. I would disagree and feel music needs to push the envelope and start highlighting artists like Glaza. There are so many average and ordinary artists that do not compel the imagination and make you come back for more.



I will come to the latest track from Johanna Glaza but wanted to explore female artists and their importance right now. We have seen some scandalous and troubling scenes emanate from the news the past week or so. It might seem weird bringing Harvey Weinstein into a music review but the Hollywood mogul has been condemned and attacked (rightfully so) because of the allegations levelled at him. He has been accused of rape and sexual assault and we are seeing a wave of actors come through – detailing how Weinstein attacked them. It is harrowing seeing how deep it runs and the scale of the crimes. Who can say how long it has been going on but there are surely going to be more revelations in the coming days. In music, one feels there is more security and less trouble in this area. I am not so sure and feel this case should act as a warning to those in music. We need more vigilance and greater care when it comes to protecting female artists. I find myself angered by the gender imbalance in music and how little safeguarding there is when it comes to women. I cannot say with any confidence there is an epidemic of sexual assault and scandal in music but I do know there are women who have remained silent – afraid to come forward through fear of recrimination and judgement. We cannot promote industries that allow this sort of thing to happen. The repercussions in the Weinstein case have been instant and severe but there is no telling what more is coming. In terms of music; women are not afforded the same opportunities and protection as men. I raise the point because this injustice extends to the music itself. It is bad enough female artists are subject to horrific discrimination and assault but, as I have said often, they are not allowed the chances men are. This extends to festivals and being afforded exposure at big events. Whether we can redress this imbalance sufficiently remains to be seen but we cannot go on and ignore what is happening behind the scenes.



Music is no more holy and safe than acting. I worry female artist have to compromise too much and being exposed to the worst sides of the industry. I will write about this in more detail this weekend but find it troubling we have to hear so many disturbing testimonies. Music needs to be aware of what is happening and ensure we do not have any Weinstein-level examples. Artists like Johanna Glaza are talented and immensely promising so should not have to get to the mainstream by exposing themselves and being controlled by men. I fear there is a wave of female artists who have to subject themselves to some degrading and horrible things in order to get their music heard. Let’s hope this is a rarity but there is a part of me that feels things are more widespread than we can imagine. I will move on but want to look at the personal relevance of music and how emotive acts like Johanna Glaza are. Every note she sings seems to mean something and has a relevance to her. Even when she is singing about mountains and the wind; one knows these elements have a connection to her. Many might assume these subjects are the stuff of fantasy. Glaza uses elements and nature as metaphor and symbols. She is big on symbolism and what nature means to her. She gives her heart to the world and has an intuitive bond to everything around her. I come back to Kate Bush but many artists are bravely singing about less traditional themes because of her. Glaza might not have had the inspiration and fortitude to talk about what she does were it not for Kate Bush (or Joanna Newsom). I am hooked and drawn to songs that take us through the heavens and across the landscape. There is dreaminess and pleasures; a scintillating buzz and electricity that comes from the music – hard to ignore and be passive towards.



I want to move onto the song now but, before then, a final word on recording techniques and sound. On Wind Sculptures; Glaza has embraced the radiophonic techniques and analogue tape-based method - which gives the album a warm, timeless sound. It is unusual seeing an artist ignore the digital and modern and proffer the benefits and brilliance of analogue. I guess there are artists doing it but there are more who want something polished and clean. If Glaza’s music was to rely on the digital; it would not have the same sense of entrance and purity. That need to retain what is true and meaningful is paramount to her. Digital recording would have tampered and distilled the essence of her music. One hears a real sense of engaging and atmospheric. This should act as guidance to artists come through who yearn for the studio and stuffing as much technology towards it as they can. I am worried many think having a fancy studio and gadgets means their music will be better and more professional. This is not the case and it means we get so much faceless and tepid sounds. I feel most artists should produce some music on analogue equipment and see the difference. I listen to musicians like Glaza and know she is not like the rest of music. Her ethos and personality are rare and that, I feel, needs to be exposed more. If music is going to grow and inspire then we need to get away from the mainstream and Pop-driven market and start exploring artists that do things differently. All of these components and strands fuse perfectly in Space Mermaid. It is a song that gets into the head and takes the soul somewhere special. I was eager to investigate and see why so many other sources have been proffering the song with fervency and passion.


The opening seconds of Space Mermaid are tripped and tempted. There is syncopation and tip-toeing as Glaza presents her words as if she were sneaking through the house at 3 A.M. The delicate yet provocative delivery asks whether we should learn to breathe under snow and water. One can hear these words and think one of two things. Perhaps there is illusion to global warming and the fact that reality might be nearer than we imagine. Nobody knows when things will crack/melt but it is not a far-flung possibility. Maybe there is a sense of the romantic and swimming through the waters; two hearts beating together and getting away from the world. Instantly, one is put in a colder and more arresting place. You listen to the song and envisage the heroine moving through melted snow and water. There is a distinct twang and cadence to the voice that affords the words an extra sense of magic and mysterious. Comparisons have been made to Joanna Newsom and one can sense a bit of that in Glaza’s voice. There is that same accent but one could say that is true of other singles. What Glaza does is showcase her own sounds and flavours. You get a real individual flair and tantilisation from a singer-songwriter who is finding her voice and venturing into new territories. In the early stages of Space Mermaid – and the oddity of that title – we get some rather strange and wonderful lyrics. The cat, it seems, the cat proposed how this world is “just an experiment”. That question is directed at the sky and, already, one is engaged in something very peculiar and irresistible. Few writers can pen words like that and make them sound essential and sensible. There is a wisdom and child-like innocence to the lyrics but a sense of caution that runs through the veins. The gods have no place in the sky and, when trying to uncover the truth about the words, your mind is taken in different directions.



Every line is delivered in a different way so that there is constant movement and unpredictability. “I go back home and you’re not there” is a line that invites images of loneliness and abandonment whilst Glaza’s yearning for a miracle suggests she is hankering after a connection a sense of definition. Maybe she has lost who she was and is looking for ballast. Few can deny the emotion and beauty of the lyrics and the original presentation. So many different twists and turns come from the song; you have that physicality and authority from the musician – the listener is free to interpret how they wish but everyone will have a different view. Glaza walks into the green nettle sea and is taken back to her childhood – a time-machine that seems to cast her back to fonder times. You might get a sense of defeat and suicidality but there is a need to reclaim a degree of safety and lack of responsibility. Maybe the heroine is finding things tough and wants to get back to a time when life was easier. As she steps towards the waters; the cascading voice and wordlessness get into the skin and projects images. The heart is stone and one feels the need to reach forward and protect the heroine. The piano is kept light - but wields influence and stir throughout. Few other elements exist apart from the piano and voice. Maybe the lyrics do not possess as much clarity as you might think – making more sense to the author – but it is interesting guessing what might be behind the words. I cannot get over how sensual and arresting the voice is. I have used those words before but they seem apt for someone who manages to get into the mind with only a few utterances. It is amazing seeing how Glaza weaves patterns and takes care when singing. Her own lexicon and direction mean few others will be able to reach the same heights as Glaza.



Eventually, percussion does come in and there is a bit more heat and strike. The song naturally progresses and grows as time marches on. The heroine is no fool, as she repeats, and is not going to be taken advantage of. There is never a sense of being beaten and giving up on life: the need to fight and be heard is evident and loud. Whilst Glaza never shouts the words; she does carry huge weight and passion at every turn. The song teases and confounds; it spikes the mind and one is always left guessing where the lyrics stem from. I got the impression the heroine was suffering a break-up and was struggling to cope with how things have unfolded. Many artists would provide such simple dialect and cliché when speaking about relationships. Instead, we get something deep and unique from someone who has a lot more to say. Wild Sculptures is filled with similar quality and unique flair but I find Space Mermaids to be the perfect starting place. From the first moment to the flickering embers; it is a compelling song that makes the listener stand to attention. You will come back to the track as it is quite a lot to take in upon the first listen. There is so much working away and the mind will interpret the lyrics and get to grips with the layers within the voice. I am not surprised Glaza has been granted so much love and support from journalists following the album’s release. I hope she carries on strong as the music world needs more people like her. It can be difficult discovering true gems but, when it comes to Johanna Glaza, she is no fake: the real deal and someone whose values and importance will continue to climb as the years unfold.



From her early days fronting the band, Joanna and the Wolf, there have been developments and changes in the life of Glaza. She left them in 2011 and moved to New York – where she began recording songs for her solo career. Coming from Lithuania and then finding your way to New York must have been quite eye-opening. She did not instantly go from one to the other but the sheer scale of New York would have been strange for someone who was born in a completely different space. Being in London; Glaza is used to the city and the endless rush that comes from it. I hope she remains here and continues to record. The E.P., Silence Is Kind, come out in late-2013 and got the music to the masses. More and more people tuned into her sounds and became familiar with a very special artist. One can hear bits of Joni Mitchell, Joanna Newsom and Kate Bush in Space Mermaid and, when you dig into Wind Sculptures, there are so many different aspects working away. Songs range from piano-led (Million Years) to the bold and heart-wrenching Home. Different instruments come in and there is hardly anything predictable about the record. You can discover glockenspiel and bass; there is piano and rousing percussion; tender infantile and bold sexuality. Throughout the record, that sense of being connected and blended with the natural world is evident. Johanna Glaza’s existent can be solitary and frightening but she never makes the listener feel alienated and scared at any point. The music brings you in and one instantly bonds with the songs. Glaza calls the record “the edge between raw and beautiful” and does not hide away from the people – the songs are not drowned in the comfortable, sparkly and superfluous. As she describes it: “If it started to feel too comfortable, or sparkly, I took a step back and stripped it off because I know it wasn’t good enough for me.”


Wind Sculptures is a personal album that demands one listen to it through headphones. The music draws you in and it has such intimacy. I am excited hearing what comes next and whether there will be more albums down the line. It appears Glaza is growing in stature and there is a definite foundation of support. Glaza spoke to Hoxton Radio a couple of days ago and promoted her new album. There are plenty of ears and prominent sources keen to espouse the benefits and joys of her music. I am sure this success will continue as we head into 2018 and I would like to see the music go even further. Maybe there are gigs further north because there are many who would love to see her play. The reviews (for Wind Sculptures) are positive and many note how ambitious her music is – reaching far and helmed by that gorgeous and hypnotic voice. This is no small feat for a debut album and that stands Glaza in good stead. I imagine more music will come and subsequent records will reach even further. I will leave things now but know Johanna Glaza will grow stronger and reach even more people. She has spent time in the U.S. and this is a market she could return to. Maybe there are few like her in areas like New York but songs like Space Mermaid do not rely on demographics and location: they are universal and get into everyone’s hearts. I have been blown away by the song and, whilst I could not find time to review all of Wind Sculptures, I can attest to the brilliance of the music. Such a thrilling and unusual album from an artist who has many more years ahead. Those who want to find something that goes beyond the ordinary and causes gasps and wonderment should spend some time…


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