New Deal/Primavera (label)
20 January 2023 (released)
20 January 2023
Irish-Catalan artist Núria Graham returns with her fourth album ‘Cyclamen’ a folklorish song-cycle named after a genus of flowers that is native to the Mediterranean Basin (yet durable elsewhere in Europe).
Divining from nature all that can be nurtured, from fauna to fish, land and air, astral plains and ancestral terrains, allegorically and metaphysically Graham is cross-channelling the elements and environments, undertaking journeys to inner and outer realms and traversing the passages and ravages of time, profound themes exquisitely explored.
Graham’s affecting lilt blends a Gaelic burr with Iberian intonation creating a unique feel that evokes the great Dory Previn’s crystalline storytelling and oblique observations, straight as an arrow phrasing that singles out and speaks directly to the soul. This ain’t no winsome gruesome syrup-pop-vox.
Sonically Graham has the assistance of sound engineer Jordi Mora and arranger Helena Cànoves, building from a foundation of piano and classical guitar, the addition of double bass, harp and bassoon with the irruption of grungy guitar it all amounts to a cinematic cornucopia of dreamlike states of psychedelic lyricism and poetic surrealism.
This is none more evident than on the sonorous and wondrous ‘Yes, it’s me, the goldfish!’ which views a skewed world through the eyes of the enclosed fish, beyond the bowl called home remains an unknown existence, one false leap can lead to expiry. Its philosophical message one of perpetually going round and round treading the same water is in fact the maintenance of equilibrium. A mystical microcosm of everyday existentialism.
The inner-engine, the spirit within, the pure essence, the life-force that dictates and prevails is addressed in ‘The Catalyst’, a jaunty and upbeat number that contrasts with downbeat sentiments and heartbeat testaments, Graham’s supposed ‘stupid Catalan English’ one cause for concern.
The small island of Procida in the Bay of Naples is the locale/subject of the opening and closing of the album: the former is a trancelike 70 seconds of woozy wistfulness that effortlessly ebbs away, the latter picks up this psychic postcard and resumes its hazy prose.
A sonic schism appears with ‘Disaster in Napoli’, a No-Wave feedback dirge, the repetitive clanging of imminent doom mirroring the ominous warnings that chaos is coming to town.
A soothing ambience permeates throughout this enchanting suite, like the titular flower there’s a reassuring resoluteness and rigour that affirms an emotional resilience.