There’s a specter that hangs over Brianna Hunt’s first album as Many Rooms. Occasionally, it can be beautiful, but more often than not it’s looming and omnipotent. The Texas-based artist makes the kind of music that allows enough negative space for totalities — doubt, hope, fear, desire, and the lack of all the above. Or, as the name of its first single goes, “Which Is To Say, Everything.” Since she adopted the Many Rooms moniker a couple years ago, Hunt has been working on her debut, called There Is A Presence Here, and the album possesses a patient and methodical nature that makes it both serene and singularly haunting.
Hunt is an extension of a strain of recent musicians, like Julien Baker and Sorority Noise’s Cameron Boucher, that take matters of faith and how they relate to mental health seriously. God is all over There Is A Presence Here: as a barometer of self-worth, as a figure to act in opposition to, as one to take solace in. The album soundtracks a lapse in faith, a deep questioning of what it all means. “What if I die and nothing happens? Will my soul decay with me?” Hunt asks in its first lines. “God, I’ve asked you so many times to free me of the aching,” she sings on another song. “Why did you refuse to answer me?” Throughout the album, Hunt is grappling with her personal relationship to God — divorcing ingrained beliefs and behaviors with a spirituality that fits more into her worldview.
On “Hollow Body” (which you can listen to below), Hunt is mired in inner conflict. “My brittle bones, they can’t contain/ The weight of when we speak your name,” she sings. “But in spite of everything/ I curse you with the breath you gave me.” It’s a song that’s repurposed from her debut EP, where it served as the title track, but it’s rearranged enough to feel significant: Hunt’s vocals are more removed, the guitar is swapped out for a whispering piano. There’s an additional coda that incorporates Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt“; the inspiration for it didn’t come from that version of the song, though, but instead from Johnny Cash’s cover, which makes sense given Cash’s shared preponderances with faith. And those borrowed lyrics echo Hunt’s own struggle well: “And you could have it all/ My empire of dirt/ I will let you down/ I will make you hurt.”
There Is A Presence Here was recorded by Randy LeBoeuf (of Trade Wind) in a studio in New Jersey, and it represents a sonic shift for Hunt that abandons more conventional structure in favor of a reality that feels brittle and tenuous. These songs are rarely more than wisps, but they somehow manage to feel towering and all-consuming. It’s a testament to Hunt’s arresting presence as a songwriter and composer that she can make such sparse songs sound so full, and There Is A Presence Here is the sort of album that makes a lasting impact.