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Named after the poisonous tree, Oleander, Fair Maiden’s secondalbum, is like a slow death. These are love songs in all that love encompasses: fearsome and sweet, terrible and all-consuming. Recorded over two days in a converted church in Adelaide,Oleander embodies the space in tone and form. First, as transformation: Oleander forecasts the turbulence of finding oneself in another and resisting at the same time. Then, in its sound: each of these 10 songs swim in cavernous spaces, Ellen Carey’s entrancingvocals joined by Harriet Fraser-Barbour (drums), Steph Crase (bass) and Hamish Baird (guitar) to evoke dark hymns.

On each track Carey establishes a narrow range and explores every nuance of it, suggesting to be with another is only ever a struggle togive a lot and get a little. Carey’s vocals ride high in the mix,foregrounding the contrast between nursery rhyme sweetness and its menacing undercurrent. Transforming Carey’s turbulent poetry intofully fleshed songs, the rest of the band sound as if they live in eachother’s heads, together in perfect collaboration. ‘Coal; is apropulsive and defiant country jaunt, the verses driving into its forlorn chorus. 'Willow' leans into Southern Gothic, the drums clashing and clattering like tangled branches and swelling with tension. On ‘Fire and Blood’, Baird’s guitar runs through the chorus like a horror movieprotagonist, creeping through the verses like the villain.

Refined over years of songwriting, each song stands on its own as a precise incision into moments of loss. But the album as a whole occupies every inch of emotional space, painting a vivid andterrifying portrait of life’s drama. Nearly five years after the release oftheir first album, Oleander once again shows Fair Maiden are attuned to the human heart.

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