Kathryn Joseph – ‘the blood / the coming’ [Hits The Fan]

When listening to a Kathryn Joseph record, the world slows down; time gives way to an ethereal pause, filled so graciously by Joseph’s gossamer trills, the slow, sad shimmers of piano.

After the critical success of her 2015 debut, bones you have thrown me and blood I’ve spilled, this single release (along with a new batch of special edition vinyl) is a real treat, offering a perfect slice of Joseph’s distinctive talent.

 

There is a vulnerability to the way Joseph spins the fine filaments of her voice around gradually accumulating piano notes, her lyrics painting a shadowy membrane (“like a light out in the dark / darker hold of darker parts”) which gives way to raw honesty.

While Joseph’s voice is often, and quite rightly, compared to Joanna Newsom’s, her wispy style of articulation is less brightly melodic, and instead works more softly through the offering of images (“grow / a baby / in her”) – sometimes clear, sometimes nebulous – which accumulate and fade like the leaves she describes in ‘the coming’.

At times, the pureness of Joseph’s voice becomes a Björk-like crooning instrument, playing through a haunting layer of echoes which flesh out the songs with ghostly encounters: minor chords rippling over suspended notes and quietly shivering snares, which add a tinge of dramatic impact but never at the expense of delicacy.

There’s a certain claustrophobia to ‘the blood’ and ‘the coming’; while they subtly build and reach a certain emotional pitch, they refuse to reach the sort of sonorous expression which would give full release to the subject matter.

Instead, fittingly, the songs seem always imminently on the point of both climax and silence, the wavering, faint vibrato of Joseph’s voice on ‘the coming’ leads us through a series of pauses which draw us closer into her intimate world, but never offer a point of epiphany, where we might seek freedom from the heartbreaking intensity.

Each track fades gradually, like ink flowering across a plane of water; never quite reaching closure but rather faltering out as if unfinished, suggesting something of the sense of openness, of something still to come, a future light in the dark.

Here’s hoping it’s another record for 2017.

Words: Maria Sledmere

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