Janel Leppin cradles the cello close to her soul. You can hear her on recordings by Eyvind Kang, Evangelista, Marissa Nadler, Priests and Janel & Anthony, her duo with guitarist and husband Anthony Pirog. In her solo music as Mellow Diamond, the D.C.-based musician and composer builds elegantly somber songs through a dense pedal board of effects and loops.
American God is Mellow Diamond's third album in just two years — always arriving in spring — written and recorded during a fraught election and its fall-out. While those references are rarely explicit, you can locate a desperate urgency here. Where past efforts pulled in an arsenal of instruments, Leppin sticks to cello and Mellotron keyboard; that instrumental intimacy swept up in arrangements that cluster around her voice, as delicate and as imposing as a sheet of falling ice.
Like the crystals featured in the video for "Ashes To Breathe," director Dan Sharnoff reflects and refracts images of Leppin and her cello in a prism to mimic the beautifully fervid track. In the burnt-out remains of humanity, Leppin looks for healing: "What once was a curse / Now is paradise / And scorched earth remains / That's what we found."
American God is out now via Bandcamp.