The general challenge with minimalism is to first accept restraint, then figure out the most you can do with so little within the set boundaries. So far, constraint doesn't seem to be an issue for Dorthia Cottrell's solo work, where she shifts away from the heavy drones of her doom metal band Windhand towards the polarizing genre of folk. Much of it is due to her bravura vocals that project a dominance powerful enough that, if she really wanted to, she could just ditch instruments all together.
But despite venturing into quieter musical territory, Cottrell does retain a feeling of gloom with her first two singles. "Gold" is a somber track where her voice mourns and grieves to crying notes, while "Kneeler" has a palatable, but melancholic arpeggio that evokes a sense of abandonment.
Her latest release, "Oak Grove," sounds like something that could soundtrack a Cormac McCarthy Western. The thick rings of open strings, the plodding strums and whimpering guitar slides convey a bleak tone that makes it hard not to picture a vast, desolate desert -- or anything lifeless, for that matter. Equally grim are the lyrics: "God is not my problem, and my flesh is weak, I'm the kind of girl who needs a devil in her man," she sings at one point.
Vocally, Cottrell is less expressive; deeper and lumbering. Hearing her in a lower register as she sings along with the acoustic melodies or when the melodies themselves mimic her, it puts you in a strange, trance-like state -- one you might not break out of until the very end.
Dorthia Cottrell's self-titled debut solo album will be released on March 3.