Eau Claire is the first collaboration between shoegazer guest vocalist Jessica Bailiff and Rachel Staggs of Experimental Aircraft and The Swells. It’s an interesting combo, as Staggs’ music is sturdy and rooted while Bailiff’s breathy delivery rarely coheres beyond ephemeral. The disc is a great torch bearer for the 4AD bands of the late ’80s/early ’90s, without becoming bogged down in rote homage. There’s an abundance of wafting synths, rolling waves of bass and acoustic strumming, but check out the upbeat electronic percussion and sleigh bells on “Song For” to find some uncharacteristic optimism.
While the project was conceived long distance — Bailiff hails from Ohio, Staggs from Texas — Low’s Alan Sparhawk brought the two together for the actual recording sessions. The resultant sound is inflected with that band’s austere and resolute resonance. There’s a tendency in this genre to opt for the more-is-more approach to songwriting and production, but Eau Claire’s temperance belies a confidence in their abilities and allows them to do away with the barrier many of their contemporaries tend to erect.