From her home-recorded first album, 2017’s Pantheon of Me, up through 2019’s Sacred Bones debut Mazy Fly, the Bay Area artist Chrystia Cabral—aka SPELLLING—has entertained a fascination with the otherworldly. “SPELLLING is about showing people that there’s magic in every moment,” Cabral told Pitchfork at the time. With “Little Deer,” the sweeping first single from her forthcoming third album, The Turning Wheel, Cabral vividly melds the mythical with the familiar.
Amid self-produced, Fantasia-meets-Kate Bush orchestration comprising 17 different acoustic instruments, she sings about love, death, and reincarnation in alluring yet plain language. “How do I fear, little deer/To take the precious life from you away?” she asks, pondering the question with a sense of whimsy and terror worthy of a fairytale. “Little deer, little deer/I see myself inside of you.” Cabral takes lyrical inspiration from Frida Kahlo’s self-portrait as The Wounded Deer, and like Kahlo, she peers at the boundary between life and what lies beyond it with a sense of curiosity and excitement. After the body passes away, will the soul live on? Cabral’s music may be newly ornate, but the grandiosity only emphasizes SPELLLING’s everyday wonder.