I was prepared to dislike Lori Cunningham; after all, I come from the 90’s brand of elite Goths—those of us who listen to Depeche Mode on our happy days and turn to Sopor Aeternus and the Ensemble of Shadows for some light dance music. Goths are snobby by nature, but Lori’s album “Unseen” caught me delightfully off-guard. It is an appealing, gratifying album, with a surprising depth and mastery of sound. Cunningham borrows from such classic ethereal artists as Delerium and Enigma, weaving seductive synth lines with ghostly, captivating lyrics that speak of loss, endless searches, and the kind of lingering pain that only comes from old wounds.
Lori has a silver voice, but at times this works against her. She has undergone extensive classical training, which is clear from her range and enunciation; there’s no doubt the girl’s an impressive singer, but I found myself wishing to see her weakness. Perhaps some Siouxsie-like growls or some Kate Bush emotional pull into the real grit of the song. I wanted to feel as if she were crawling so that I could cheer when she rose. She comes close to altering her voice in “Inside,” but reverts back to the same tentative sound toward the middle of the track. In short, Lori suffers from being too pretty. Allowing the listener to hear vulnerability is something that takes many years and many albums, but I’m hoping she’ll bypass the long learning process for our sakes.
The album, especially for a debut, is untainted by the blatantly amateur tactics of new artists; it is well-mixed and complex, allows for the kind of slow-steeped instrumental tracks that makes the listener grateful for the journey. A thankful interlude is the Overflow Mix of Empty Well, which incorporates the club beats of German industrial bands and breaks up what comes dangerously close to monotony. This shows Lori’s versatility as an artist; her voice lends itself to both slow and dance songs. Still, I would have liked to hear her let loose and transform into a fierce warrior of instrumental battle.
It’s a welcome relief to hear LDS artists branching into gothic music. It allows for reflection and is both uplifting and satisfying. I’m looking forward for Lori Cunningham’s next record and hope she’ll be able to trust herself enough to let us hear the full emotional capacity of her stunning voice.