Tickets – ALELA DIANE Berlin
Known for her “immaculately beautiful indie-folk songs” (Paste Magazine), Portland singer-song writer Alela Diane recorded her cathartic and ethereal sixth studio album, Looking Glass, during a time of personal transition.
Diane, who has been a full-time musician for fifteen years and has toured extensively in Europe and North America, recorded Looking Glass during the same weeks that she and her family were selling the Portland house she bought at the age of 26, with the money from her first royalties contract. Diane’s family had now outgrown the house, but the leaving was bittersweet for her. While living there, she’d been married, divorced, and married again, and become the mother of two children.
The emotional and logistical chaos of that moment in her life—along with pandemic-related childcare struggles—meant that finishing this record required a profound new level of discipline, with Diane logging practice sessions at 6am each morning. (One of Diane’s other recurring themes are the joys and strains of motherhood, especially for an artist.)
The result is an album that represents a new artistic achievement for Diane. Looking Glass is the first of her records to be produced by the celebrated Tucker Martine (Neko Case, My Morning Jacket, The Decembrists). The album was arranged by her longtime friend and fellow musician Heather Woods Broderick. Notable guest musicians include Carl Broemel (My Morning Jacket), Scott Avett (The Avett Brothers), Eli Moore (Lake), Mikaela Davis, Luke Ydsitie (Blind Pilot), and Ryan Fracesconi (Joanna Newsom).
Shortly after recording Looking Glass, Diane and her family moved into a sprawling 1892 Victorian home, a dollhouse-like fixer-upper set on a surprisingly hidden wooded lot in the middle of Southeast Portland. (Think white scalloped roof lines, an airy light-filled attic with an attached tower—perfect for playing guitar—but also various unpleasant surprises: a leaky roof and ancient mouse skeletons hiding in the corners of kitchen cabinets.) Restoring the house has been a labor of love for Diane and her husband, and partly a way of gifting her daughters, ages 5 and 8, some of the magic she recalls from her own childhood home. (She and her husband have installed an outdoor clawfoot bathtub on the property, an eccentricity she recalls fondly from her own childhood yard.)
Always alert to the layers of meaning in everyday spaces and moments, Diane has described the feeling of living in this old, creaky house as one of “deep settling in.”
In keeping with Diane’s love of all things antiquarian, the title of her album, like the house, also has a 19th century provenance. The original definition of “looking glass,” she noted, is “mirror,” but after Lewis Carroll published the novel Through the Looking Glass in 1871, the term took on a second meaning: “the opposite of what is normal or expected.”
“In the context of the album,” said Diane, “The Looking Glass refers to both meanings. It is a portal to past and future, and a reflection on all that lies between.”