Motor Music (label)
22 May 2020 (released)
When ‘Airy met Fairy magic ensued. Not sleight of hand, ‘now you see it, now you don’t’ kind of magic. No, the magic of essence, of presence, of pretence and resonance.
Breathy, husky, barely enunciated vocals are all the rage nowadays. From oversized clobber wearing ingénue Billie Eillish to Joanna Newsom’s will o-the wisp woodland warblings now the aptly titled When ‘Airy met Fairy enter the fray.
How much you’ll warm to this depends on your tolerance for this kind of ‘performance’. An album of ‘icy lullabies’ and critiques of ‘social’ media’s alienating and divisive effects upon the individual with(in) society, it’s a mixture of atmospherica ambience, hazy dream-poptimism and trip-hop dystopic disintegration. A (in)toxic(ating) and heady brew.
The duo are Iceland’s Thorunn Egilsdottir (a former contestant on The Voice: Germany) and Luxembourg’s Mike Koster who have created on this follow-up to 2018’s ‘Glow’ a sonic-balm.
Several of the titles themselves can be read as prescient philosophies on the current situation: the plaintive call to/for ‘Home’, the suffocating and breathless ‘Drown in slow motion’, the all-seeing ‘I’ and the bucket of fool’s gold of ‘Under the rainbow’ which comes across like a Brother’s Grimm cautionary tale.
Opener the choral ‘That’s my rock ‘n’ roll’ has a similar mood and feel to Arab Strap’s more subdued moments, (p)lush finger-picked guitars and latent (under)tones.
Rufus Wainwright’s on-the-outside-peering-nervously-in ‘Going to a town’ from 2007 is given a makeover, its weary/wary refrain of ‘I’m so tired of you, America’ can/could/should be viewed either as a dig at that collection of failed states’ very public collapse with the corporate bully at the top of the cesspit ... Let’s face it, that’s the only way to perceive it right now.
Crucially, the duo only listened to the original after their recording (on an aesthetic level it also reminds of the equally tellingly titled ‘Do you know where you’re going to?’ sung by Diana Ross from the film ‘Mahogany’. Does anyone?).
‘Another year’ is a hypnogogic feast, a spectral beast, as haunting voices swirl and whirl in the search for ‘more’ and the desire for re-emergence from a heavy dosage of dosing the words ‘I’m trying so hard just to wake up’ a statement from beyond the narcoleptic state we’re in.
‘Inside your lungs Superstar’ articulates the everyday (and waking minutiae) obsession with the social media mirror, mirror on the wall, that nebulous and nefarious form of interaction that creates fragmenting and dissolving identities. The resulting spectacle of Coronavision has only brought out more narcissists from the shadows. Your birthday will never feel the same again.
This is a darkly-hued album on which its lightened touch, empathy and expanse only become more obvious and accessible through excessive listening.
So, what are YOU waiting for?