On ‘Away’, Alexis Mahler Molds Voice & Lyrics Into Honest & Elegant Artistry (EP REVIEW)

The beauty and power that Alexis Mahler creates with her voice and cello is simply mesmerizing. With patient and confident phrasing, a soothing resonance of vulnerability and strength, Mahler has delivered a poignant and intimate EP titled Away that draws us directly into her being. Songs of heartbreak, taking space, rebuilding a life, self care, or maybe — self survival. These are pertinent emotions in a world that is pleading to wake up tomorrow more empathetic than it did today. 

As an accomplished cellist and violinist, Mahler and company provide eloquent and sweeping arrangements that create a rich undertone to serve as a chariot to her angelic voice. Cutting through a viscous world of tone, Mahler’s emotions are born of tragedy and simultaneously full of light, evoking a mysterious world with sparse yet captivating orchestration that calls to artists like Brown Bird and Anais Mitchell. Mahler blends top tier musicianship, honest and unprotected songwriting, and a voice that will spear directly into your heart. 

On the opening track, “slow”, immediately it is clear what we have been faced with. Our protagonist is hurting, burning from the inside-out, as love lost has seared itself into the skin and removal is painful, seemingly impossible. As blinding heartache is present there is a desire to be in touch with a deeper truth – as our wounded hero is restless and unwilling to let go. A wise inner voice speaks, “Go slow, ease yourself into it, small pieces keep chipping away.” 

As the EP moves to track two, “the least”, Abbey Blackwell sets the tone with a pulsing bass line that draws us in and gives us a semiliquid seat to sit on. Mahler’s voice is in full form here, dancing with the emotions of holding onto a small flame. Protecting the last part of a love that is gone – a feeling that we don’t want to let go of. 

“The longer you wait, the higher the stakes.”

This is an important message to ourselves in the healing process. As she speaks to an abandoned house in a metaphorical sense, as one might relate a home to the body or to the mind. To rebuild will take time and hard work and our protagonist is ready. The healing is set into motion. 

By the third song, “castle” we have come out of the dark and settled into a mindful, yet well paced walk on the beach. A strumming baritone ukulele sets the mood as subtle piano lines dance in the backdrop – Mahler’s voice maneuvers charismatically. All of a sudden the sun is coming up. Imagery is provocative and immediately our feet are in the sand. We are looking back on love lost but now we have air in our lungs and the wind at our back. 

The EP concludes with quite possibly the strongest track on the record. “Springtime” –a timeless folk ballad. Mahler’s voice takes flight surrounded by dueling violins and gorgeous harp implementation. Once living in a world on fire, now we are healing and coming back stronger and more enlightened. We intimately know loss as we have come to terms with these feelings – and in truth these feelings are keeping us alive. For if we cannot feel we will die. Here her voice, vision, and strength are ever potent as she patiently and confidently delivers well crafted lyrics with a singular voice. 

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