Sometimes you find yourself in need of what music offers. Sometimes it can be a gift to share with and experience with others and sometimes it's something you crave utterly selfishly, to drown absolutely everything out and immerse yourself in. Some kind of refuge. Yesterday was a day when I inclined towards the latter inclination. I was low. And I came upon Wellington, New Zealand's Emily Fairlight and her splendidly titled second album Mother of Gloom which came out earlier on this year. And I'm just glad that I did.
It's altogether a beautiful, glacial trip. Not entirely a happy one mind. In fact far from it. In many respects it's a very dark and gloomy record. Yet, let's face it, life is never a wholly happy experience either, and we need music that reflects that ambiguity and depth. That darkness sometimes. And this is such a record. Fairlight is clearly a troubled soul, or else chooses a persona that appears to be and the album has a trance-like intensity that will surely draw you into its depths.
Simple rural folk arrangements and Fairlight's swirling, mordant vocals. There's little unecessary embroidery here. It all sounds as if it was recorded utterly authentically with musician and their enchanted leader grouped in a close circle in a shack thick in some forest in a wild and precarious location. Mother of Gloom is a heady trip, all atmosphere, and the witches spell it casts is deep and unnerving.
Sometimes you know instinctively that a record is not going to let you down as you move from one track to the next, so sure is the trust you're building with the artists shaping its flow. Such was the case yesterday with myself and the relationship I established with Mother of Gloom, (apparently a Martha Wainwright lyric). It never once let me down from first track to last. A seamless, shining path.
Fairlight has something in common with Wainwright in terms of her art and tone. She also shares some gifts and mannerisms with Patti, with PJ, Natalie Merchant, Karen Dalton, and Cowboy Junkies, Margo Timmins. But this record is so assured and powerful a statement that she earns every right to be considered in her own light. She's a wonderful talent, and this is as a good a record of its kind as I expect to hear this year. It surely merits awards of some description, but even if it doesn't get the ones it deserves, it is destined for garlands of some sort from It Starts With a Birthstone at least come December. That's the least I owe it to be frank. It pulled me up just when I needed it yesterday after all. Cheers Emily!