CLOVES, the project of London-based artist Kaity Dunstan, released her sophomore album, Nightmare On Elmfield Road, this Friday, May 21st. Her latest drop not only unveils her personal experiences with anxiety, depression, and inordinate introspection under a microscope, it may just be her most vulnerable album to date. Each track offers a glimpse into her inner monologue as she spirals within herself as she reflects and processes through the beginnings of her own mental health journey for the first time. To execute her vision sonically she enlisted the help of Clarence “Coffee” Jr (Dua Lipa) and Detonate (Sia, Diplo) as well as Hudson Mohawke and Jake Portrait from Unknown Mortal Orchestra. The result is her most impressive and honest album yet.
Born in Melbourne, Australia, music always provided solace for CLOVES. At just 18, she relocated to London and released her debut album, One Big Nothing. The series of tracks generated 100 million-plus streams, she played on Late Night TV, graced stages at Coachella and Lollapalooza, and garnered critical acclaim from music tastemakers around the world. But by the end of the creation and touring cycle, she was burnt out.
“The first album was really difficult to make,” she admits. “By the end of it, I felt really down and quite lost in myself. So much of my self-esteem revolves around my work and how well I feel I’m doing. I wasn’t in a good place. I started understanding what I wanted out of my second album before the first album cycle even ended.”
Throughout Nightmare On Elmfield Road, CLOVES crafts a glitchy, dark and dystopian atmosphere which reflects the emotional landscape she was processing as she created the album. It’s this kind of intense and at times brutal self-examination where we see CLOVES at her most vulnerable but flourishing as a songwriter.
The most uncomfortable circumstances force growth. Rather than being a choice, evolution turns into a need. On her new album Nightmare On Elmfield Road, CLOVES vaults over sonic and emotional walls in her music, melody seeps through the cracks of discordant electronic production and off-kilter bleeps as lyrical self-deprecation breaks under the weight of newfound confidence in her delivery.
“The album is a series of songs that to me represent the complexity of emotions you experience when you can’t pull yourself out of a spiral—or an entire other world going on behind the eyes that only you know about. There was a lot of genuine sadness in my life, and it’s easy to feel frustrated by your own negativity and lose all effort to care.”
While making this record, CLOVES was at the start of a mental health journey, whether she knew it at the time or not. She found herself often struggling to make sense of how she was feeling, and those experiences provided the inspiration for the songs on this album. She hopes her music can work towards destigmatizing the idea of mental illness and the notion of asking for help.
“Before this album, I had never worked to try and understand myself and how I process thoughts and emotions. Instead, I had always turned to coping mechanisms and was defensive of help. It became debilitating, I was unable to compartmentalize a real threat from a poisonous train of thought. This record is purely made from necessity. It’s taking all my darkest thoughts and feelings I have about myself and saying them; it’s the start of taking their power away.
I wanted the anxiety portion of my internal dialogue to feature throughout the album as another character lyrically, that felt like the best way to express how tangible these thoughts feel.” Seeking inspiration, she obsessively curated playlists of nineties favorites such as Portishead, The Cardigans, Sneaker pimps, Nelly Furtado, alongside more obscure choices like Morcheeba, Zero 7, and FC Kahuna. “I’m trying to poke myself throughout this record and ask, ‘Hey, are you still alive?’ I put the negativity into something productive. For me, it proved to be the best way of coping.”
Nightmare On Elmfield Road tracklist:
The album begins with an alluring introduction to CLOVES’s mental health journey, capturing the state of mania, a false hope and false normality to human behavior encapsulating a warped sense of happiness. “I’m not okay,” CLOVES sings throughout, a mantra playing in the background like a small voice repeating in the back of the brain.
Next, “Sicko” seems to be the first awakening, an open reveal to the destructive cycle of anxiety and depression.
Later through the album, CLOVES chose to include a short, thirty-four second audio clip, “And now a word from one of the many voices in my head saying something I won’t remember later.” In it is not a typical break or transition but instead a blend of the story she is conveying throughout the album.
Next, “Dead” seems to be a process of that suffering, to the extent of the numbness, the deadness from within… which almost feels like its own form of rest and peace but instead it is an alluring of complacency, to stay on the plateau instead of continuing on for the struggle into healing.
Nightmare on Elmfield Road continues through the process in CLOVES’s personal journey through growth and focusing on mental health. As her most vulnerable project to date, it is worth processing through along with her in listening to the album.
Stream Nightmare on Elmfield Road now, available on all platforms: