Lucinda Chua

Antidotes

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Antidotes Review

by Heather Phares

Like many performers who seem to arrive out of nowhere fully formed, Lucinda Chua's artistry took a while to come to fruition. Before the release of 2019's Antidotes 1 and 2021's Antidotes 2 -- a pair of EPs that 4AD compiled into the mini-album Antidotes -- Chua was a well-regarded collaborator with the likes of producer Alex Epton and FKA twigs, for whom she played cello on the Magdalene tour. Prior to that, Chua was one half of the underappreciated experimental chamber pop duo Felix, whose albums hinted at the gift for expressing hard-to-pin-down moods she demonstrates so brilliantly on Antidotes. These lush songs flow between R&B and ambient pop pensively, taking their time to reveal their delicate shadings of mood and meaning; from moment to moment, Antidotes' patient pace can feel stately, sensual, or spooky. The velvety subtlety of Chua's voice and her enveloping keyboards, strings, and effects make it clear why she and twigs worked so well together, and songs such as "Whatever It Takes" reflect a kinship with contemporaries like Tirzah and the xx as well as forebears like Tracey Thorn. There's even a little Broadcast in the gorgeously contemplative ambience of "Somebody Who." Antidotes establishes Chua as part of a tradition, but it also finds her creating her own space within it. Her work as a composer for film is apparent in her skill at creating potent moods with just a handful of elements, whether it's the strings that take her higher and higher on "Feel Something" or the somber piano that drives "An Avalanche." The songs from Antidotes 1 reveal just how arty Chua can get: On "Semitones," she harks back to Felix's moodiest moments, and when she sings "you can sleep in my arms" over a low-slung guitar and strings that creep and creak, it sounds like that nap should be taken with one eye open. Chua streamlines her approach for maximum seductive appeal on the songs from Antidotes 2, with "Until I Fall" evoking late-night chill with processed and unadorned strings that shimmer like starlight and "Before" capturing swelling hope with instrumentation that sounds like suffused sunbeams. Though Chua was in no rush to start her solo career, it was worth waiting for her -- Antidotes is a striking reintroduction to a musician who has been on the margins for far too long.

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