“Abyss” by SRSQ

A heartbreaking dreampop epic inspired by personal trauma and despair.

There’s nothing at all subtle or understated about Ever Crashing, the sophomore album from SRSQ, which is the solo project of one Kennedy Ashlyn. Rather, this is widescreen, cinematic dreampop that’s absolutely massive in sound and scope à la Kate Bush or Bat For Lashes. How massive, you ask? According to the liner notes, some of the album’s songs consist of as many as 100 separate tracks of instruments and voices, all performed by Ashlyn.

But such musical scope is perhaps necessary to adequately contain the emotional depth and conviction that Ashlyn taps into. The songs that would eventually become Ever Crashing emerged out of a turbulent time in Ashlyn’s life during which she was diagnosed with ADHD and bipolar disorder — diagnoses that caused, in her words, “a profound personal overhaul.”

“Abyss” captures all of that, and then some. At just over seven minutes in length, “Abyss” takes everything that’s great about SRSQ’s music — the dreampop aesthetic, Ashlyn’s aching vocals — and ramps it up to operatic heights thanks to sweeping string arrangements and positively swoon-worthy lyrics.

Were they sung by a lesser artist, lyrics like “I don’t know why my soul disappeared/I don’t know if I like my life/I don’t know why I should face another year/I don’t know how to feel alive” might be easily dismissed as high school goth poetry. But in light of the last few years of Ashlyn’s life, and when delivered through her powerful voice, they ring with truth and deep emotion. Subsequently, when Ashlyn sings “I hope that I find solace in a kiss/Of the ebony abyss” at the song’s conclusion, it’s a cry of hard-won hope and triumph rather than despair.

Kierkegaard once famously described a poet as “an unhappy person who conceals profound anguish in his heart but whose lips are so formed that as sighs and cries pass over them they sound like beautiful music.” We should never want someone to experience unhappiness simply so they’ll make art we enjoy. However, it is both a truth and great mystery that artists can, indeed, transform loss, sorrow, and trauma into heartbreakingly beautiful art that speaks to others in deep, meaningful ways. Which is precisely what Kennedy Ashlyn does on a song like “Abyss.” I am, by no means, glad that she’s experienced despair and trauma in her life. I am, however, very thankful that she’s found way to take those things and make something truly beautiful of them.

Ever Crashing is currently available from Dais Records.