Words: James Frostick
Artist image: Sarah Rhodes

Chloe Alison Escott – one half of Tasmanian noise-punk duo The Native Cats – will be releasing a new solo record in October via Chapter Music. Stars Under Contract is an album of pared-back piano and voice compositions – twin foundations supporting a collection of reflective thoughts and musings. We’re thrilled to be premiering the video for the album’s new single ‘I Know the Soul By Its Presence in Others’ – a delicate piece showcasing the tenderness and subtle majesty evident on the record at large. 

To simply say Chloe Alison Escott has a way with words is to grossly minimise her proficiency at turning a phrase. Throughout her career as a member of The Native Cats Chloe has often tied my brain into a knot with her unique phraseology – communicating heartache, growth and strength in a way that I feel few others can. It’s a style of lyricism that rewards repeat listens, intricate ciphers that hide meaning beneath the folds of syllables – riddles that lead to treasures of understanding. Chloe’s forthcoming solo record Stars Under Contract – a 16-track opus of sparse piano-driven songs – is shaping up to be no different. Although it’s the kind of music that is stylistically counter to the heaving tremble of The Native Cats’ artful dissonance, the record still boasts a dash of wry humour, heart-on-sleeve earnestness and an understated power communicated through Chloe’s prose. The album was recorded in February (with the help of Evelyn Ida Morris) and is conceptually an album of “questions of transformation and shame and self-acceptance over a long, lonely night“. I can’t think of a better vehicle to communicate such sentiments than the stark minimalism of a piano ballad, where the words are placed front and centre for us all to engage with.

The album’s second single ‘I Know the Soul By Its Presence in Others’ follows ‘Stranger Than Death‘, Chloe’s contribution to Chapter Music’s recent Midnight Meditations compilation. It is a graceful number that, to me, communicates a disconnection – a palpable feeling of loneliness enhanced by Chloe’s spartan piano progression (the kind of solemn tinkling that I imagine pairing perfectly with a lonesome wander on a cold winter’s day). The simplicity of the music serves to foreground Chloe’s lyrics – sombre and unwavering, yet there’s a softness woven in that adds to a palpable feeling of separateness. As always, Chloe’s phrases are open to interpretation. Passages like “I float an inch above the land / I bury cheap gifts in the sand” and “I decline everything I am sent” give me a sense of passivity or a hesitation to engage fully – perhaps a conscious untethering from the now unfamiliar, a realisation on Chloe’s part that there’s no tangible connection to much of her own social sphere. This sense of removal could position Chloe in a suitable vantage point to observe others, measuring the density and shape of our souls from afar – but that is probably a reach on my part. What’s for sure is that I could linger on this track for hours, picking at its frayed edges and examining the strings that come loose. The song comes with a video accompaniment, too. Of the clip, Chloe shared this tidbit of insight:

Izzy Almaz and I shot this video around Hobart a month and a half ago. The idea was to complicate the meaning of the song and offset its downer vibes a little, using the clip Lana Del Rey directed for ‘Video Games’ way back when as a reference point. Friends have since told me the song doesn’t have downer vibes at all; it’s such a relief to finally misunderstand my own songwriting this way.

Watch and listen to ‘I Know the Soul By Its Presence in Others’ here:

‘I Know the Soul By Its Presence in Others’ is live on all major streaming platforms. Stars Under Contract will be released on October 16 through the ever-excellent label Chapter Music. You can pre-order the album by clicking here.