Billy Nomates – CACTI

A tour de force from this exceptional artist...

Following the release of her self-titled debut in 2020, it was clear that Billy Nomates, the stage persona of Bristol’s Tor Maries, had hit a sweet spot between a modern take on punk and spacious synth sounds that grant her lyrics plenty of room to breathe. With her sophomore offering ‘CACTI’, Maries has taken her signature sound down a completely different avenue, reworking a place of instability into a dominant energy that grows in leaps and bounds as the record plays out.

Declaring that the ‘balance is gone’, that thumping bass paves the way forward on the opening track, carrying a disturbing intensity that sets the tone for the foundations of ‘CACTI’. If any even remained, all existing rules are out of the window; the record is in some ways a clean slate that cherry-picks its elements from the present, spluttering them onto a page of honest imperfection.

For Maries, the defiance and rebelliousness that we associate her with can only coexist with the complementary feeling of being “70-80% vulnerable as hell”. As the melancholy drum machines of ‘saboteur forcefield’ push the album forward, the song is characterised by this exact admission (“I know that nothing’s quite right / It’s just your instinct to fight”). The album seems to be a gradual realisation of this exact admission, toying between cohesive song structures on ‘spite’ and unpredictable, fragile composition: ‘roundabout sadness’ is hanging by a thread.

Billy Nomates – CACTI

Title track ‘CACTI’ is a queasy offering of haunting, chromatic vocal layers that pinpoints the most exposed point on the record, set in the emptiness of “hostile [desert] sands.” Major keys swing back into action on ‘vertigo’, where Maries channels her inner and outer Shania Twain to produce the clear belter of the record.

Uncertainty remains the overarching tone as the album reaches a close, with the bittersweet, futuristic undertones of ‘blackout signal’ leaving the state of affairs on a knife edge with an abrupt end, tailing off with distorted background bellows from Maries. A reminder of the eerie, prickly sense of discomfort from which ‘CACTI’ was born.

‘CACTI’ is a whirlwind journey that encapsulates the present and not too distant past, probing different emotions and unafraid to discover new truths and confront reality in its blunt, topsy-turvy form. It’s a statement of intent from Billy Nomates, unbalancing sonic scales and weaving this into a force to be reckoned with.

9/10

Words: Rishi Shah

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