Nailah Hunter is a Los Angeles-based multi-instrumentalist, singer/songwriter, composer and folk artist, who can trace the origins of her musical journey to the church: As the daughter of a Belizean pastor, she played drums, guitar and sang in the choir.
Hunter continued to study music at CalArts, where she studied vocal performance and was given her first harp lesson. Associating the instrument with fantasy, psychedelia, and dream worlds, she became an immediate devotee, locking herself in a room for six hours a day to practice the instrument
The Los Angeles-based artist has been writing and recording mystical folk and ambient-inspired music since the release of her debut single, 2019’s “Apple, Maple, Willow.” She followed up with a series of singles and two EPs 2020’s Spells and 2021’s Quietude released through Leaving Records. Since then, Hunter signed with Fat Possum, who will be releasing her highly-anticipated full-length debut, the Cicely Goulder-produced Lovegaze on January 12, 2024.
To create Lovegaze‘s material, Hunter went to a small coastal city along the English Channel, where she began recording demos with a borrowed Celtic harp. After being introduced to London-based producer Cicely Goulder, the Los Angeles-based artist returned to England the following year to further develop the album’s material.
Written alongside collaborator Ben Lukas Boysen, Lovegaze is reportedly an enthralling album that draws listeners into her enchanting cosmology while being rooted in the audible and palpable emotionality in her delivery.
Hunter’s full-length debut is reportedly an enthralling album that draws listeners into her enchanting cosmology. “I was crying when I recorded those vocals,” she says. “While I was writing Lovegaze, I was thinking about humanity’s propensity to destroy the things we love,” Hunter says. “I was thinking about ancient ruins and structures that once provided shelter but no longer do. There’s beauty to be found in ruins, too.” Sonically, the album evokes the eternal with Hunter’s harp being accompanied by an electronic palette created in the studio with Goulder.
Written during a period of global and personal strife for the Los Angeles-based artist, Lovegaze manages to capture some of that sense of distress, but it’s also a willful reminder of the fortitude and beauty of Earth’s natural processes. As Hunter says: “Nature remains; we’re the passing thing.”
“Strange Delights,” Lovegaze‘s breathtakingly gorgeous second single pairs Hunter’s expressive and soulful delivery with an eerie Portishead-meets-Tales of Us-era Goldfrapp-like production featuring twinkling harp, woozily atmospheric synths and skittering beats. While featuring contemporary electronic elements, “Strange Delights” feels timeless and evokes a sense of breathless awe.
“‘Strange Delights’ started as an improv over a modular synth loop that my partner made,” Hunter explains. “At the time, we were burning a bunch of incense in a dark room, which served as inspiration for the wandering vocal melody. Once I worked on it with producer Cicely Goulder, ‘Strange Delights’ took on a more golden quality that reminds me of a hazy and intoxicated feast in a peculiar, yet familiar wood.”
The accompanying video by Haoyan of America is a computer generated visual that follows a crocodile with glowing eyes swimming past the broken down remains of human civilization — rusted cars, dilapidated factories, broken ruins of buildings and more. As the video slowly pans out, we see a collection of crocodiles with glowing eyes swimming over what used to be a supermarket.
“The idea for ‘Strange Delights’ was developed through conversations with Nailah and inspired by her interest in crocodilian ‘tapetum lucidum’ (Latin for “shining layer”), a biologic reflector system common in the eyes of vertebrates that give them enhanced night vision,” Haoyan of America explains. “The visual arc takes cues from the song’s musical progression and highlights contrasting evolutionary ecologies.”