Italians Do It Better (label)
03 May 2018 (released)
03 May 2018
Grief can become relief through the channelling of catharsis. For Montreal chanteuse (and former member of Canadian Children’s Opera Company) Tess Roby this has proved to be a timeless remedy. Debut album, 'Beacon', is eight songs of heart-breaking art-making, finding solace in place and time travelling backwards in this love letter to both her father’s memory and also to the titular beacon of Ashurst Hill in his native Lancashire.
Acting as both a metaphorical and physical signal and warning, it repels and compels acting as a totem of defence and pillar of strength. Roby embodies this resilience and resistance, turning pain into gain.
Along with her brother, Roby utilised their late father’s drum machines and synthesisers to create this moving testament and tribute that in certain stages evokes both Virginia Astley (especially her song ‘A Father’ from 1986’s Hope in a darkened heart) and Geordie indie-folker Nadine Shah. Similarly, Roby’s deep tones are gently bellowed out like a Northern gust, bracing and embracing.
‘Given Signs’ is mournful and meaningful melancholy with a tinge of Johnny Marr’s finger-picking; ‘Ballad 5’ is an ethereal whisper from beyond.
On the ‘Beacon’ each word is enunciated effortlessly, a eulogy to a monument, a trawling of remembrance as her voice climbs and descends, she utters the word ‘b-e-a-c-o-n’ before like the ticking clock that beats inside us all, the song stops abruptly.
An acclaimed photographer this sonic painting sees Roby sit neatly alongside other pioneering female musicians (Anna Meredith, Anna Calvi, Gwenno) and this up-tempo down-beating collection should have Bob Harris cooing.