Unfixed by location, genre, or art form, heka is a curiously unusual artist who deserves attention. We described heka’s – aka Francesca Brierley – first release of 2021, “(a) wall,” as a colorful musical concoction that was absorbingly experimental. We also predicted that this track was just a taster of what was to come with the impending EP. Now that EP has arrived, it’s safe to say our prediction was a safe bet.
Though it may be titled simply as (a), the music this EP holds is anything but simple. Opener “(a) mask” begins with an amalgamation of different voice clips and phone recordings before reverb tinged, lo-fi-esque electric guitars create a delicately intimate atmosphere. Lyrically, heka examines how masking our emotions to please others can create a sense of inner turmoil: “You bring me a mask held by a million / Tell me, to listen to its pleads.”
“wires” is almost frustratingly short in length, solely because of heka’s exceptional vocal display in the track. The intimate lo-fi feel exuded from the EP opener intensifies in this track; it’s as though the little insect-like chirps at the beginning are right by your window. Then melancholic, vibrato-laden vocals from heka breeze into proceedings briefly before disappearing off into the ether.
“Sometimes being in love can feel like being on drugs,” heka said in a press release about “(a) dab.” Etched with vulnerability, echoes of Jenny Hval can be heard in the track’s haunting lyrics: “You stretch me out across the bed / I wish that you had fed me / With some kind of knowledge on / How to get out of this mess.” Sonically, the track has a minimalistic feel on the surface. But when you delve a little deeper, vocal harmonies, guitar overdubs, and warping synths all add subtle layers of depth with their varied textures.
Finally, grace notes, peppering sax lines, and drum machine beats make for an experimental folk concoction on concluding track “(a) wall.” heka’s vocals are at their most direct here compared to the remainder of (a), which is fitting with her lyrical subject of hate and the different ways she reframes the term’s concept in the track.
In all, (a) is an intimate collection of lo-fi delights. This is the type of EP that would not benefit from being super-polished in its production; its emotion, character, and personality lie in its tangibility. Yet, this is only made possible by each track’s minimal arrangement and heka’s outstanding vocal abilities, which haunt and soothe in equal measure, becoming only more endearing with every listen.