NAMER OF CLOUDS - KITTY MACFARLANE
LCM ALBUM OF THE MONTH - SEPTEMBER 2018
Artist: Kitty Macfarlane
Release Date: 21st September, 2018
Genre: Folk, Singer-Songwriter
Record Label: Navigator Records
Review By: Gary Smith (LCM)
Kitty Macfarlane's excellent first EP 'Time and Tide' released in 2016, announced her as one of the bright young stars of the UK Folk world. Now with the release of her wonderful watershed debut album 'Namer Of Clouds', we feel that it will give Kiity the breakthrough that she richly deserves. Each song is written with empathy and a strong sense of place. The album has excellent production and musicianship throughout. A real highlight is Kitty's poetic, innovative, observational and cinematic songwriting. Together with with social conscience which is blended seamlessly with her pure vocals, which shine & sparkle brightly throughout.
Produced by fellow musicians Sam Kelly and Jacob Stoney this enchanting 11-track album contains nine of Kitty's original songs. All are sharply observed drawing on her personal experiences of living in Somerset and sometimes farther afield. The album is loosely themed on mankind's relationship with the wild and nature. The album is also augmented with 'found sound' which adds great depth and texture to the recordings. These were recorded in various locations from Somerset to Sardinia. Bird song, waterfalls, the click of knitting needles all weaved delicately together, complimenting the final mix and recording.
The album was partly recorded at The Cube near Truro in Cornwall and at Get Real Audio in Bath. The album also features the in-demand Sam Kelly (guitar, mandolin and vocals) and a host of other great young musicians including Graham Coe (cello), Archie Churchill-Moss (melodeon), Jamie Francis (electric guitar), Jacob Stoney (keys, bass, mandolin and vocals), Tom Moore (violin and viola) and Josh Clark (percussion).
The album cover shows Kitty on the flooded Somerset Levels at it is here on the Avalon marshes (one of the largest lowland wetlands in Britain) that inspired the album's opener the atmospheric and 'other worldly' 'Starling Song' is set. The wonderful percussion also gives a feel of distant rumbling thunder. The song marvels at the balletic, hypnotic starling murmurations swooping above the reed beds in winter. The title track 'Namer Of Cloud' written by Kitty and Jacob Stoney is about the life of London pharmacist Luke Howard, the man who gave the clouds their cirrus, cumulus and other classifications. "Childish desire to bring the sky close...to give a name to something fleeting….to give the abstract world a meaning". I love the way the song builds to a celestial crescendo. 'Seventeen' is a sweet and innocent 'right of passage' song about a personal milestones. Leaving school, letting go of friends, facing important crossroads and taking your first tentative steps as a independent adult.
'Sea Silk' is one of the highlights of the new album. It's based on the extraordinary story of Chiara Vigo, the last of the sea silk seamstresses who lives on a small island off Sardinia and spins filaments or 'byssus' of rare giant Mediterranean clams. The song begins with the voice of Chiara and at the end of the song you can hear the exchange and laughter between Kitty, Sam and Chiara. This adds to the percussion of the knitting needles and the whoosh of the sewing machine pedal throughout the song. This rare silk crops up throughout history Jason's fleece, King Solomon's robes, bracelets made for Nefertiti and many more. It's an inspirational song about an ancient, secret art passed down through the women of a family. The song fades out to the lapping of the waves and a traditional song collected by Ruth Tongue about the Somerset Sea Morgan's, mythical creatures and sirens living in the Bristol channel who lure fisherman to their death. This lovely understated, rare and atmospheric arrangement of ‘Morgan’s Pantry’ which also features a field recording of a hidden waterfall only revealed at low tide, that the Morgan’s were said to frequent. It was supposedly a gateway to another world.
Kitty return to mankind’s interaction with nature with the beautiful and poetic ‘Glass Eel’ which looks at one of sciences great mysteries. The 4,000 mile migration of the European eel from the Sargasso sea to our rivers. The eel services as a fantastic metaphor for the constant motion of the earth, migration (enforced and voluntary) of both people and animals. “We are all compelled to move side by side. While roaming cliff and waning moon keep time. For the tiny travelers on ocean currents or a desperate flight from the east”.
One of the highlights of Kitty’s debut EP ‘Tide and Time’ was ‘Wrecking Days’ this time reworked superbly in a folk rock masterpiece for the new album. It’s inspired by the Jane Cornish documentary ‘The Wrecking Season’ and tells the story of a beachcomer exploring the beach at low tide. ‘Dawn & Dark’ is a lovely lullaby written by Kitty for a new born baby of a close friend. It is beautifully and perfectly judged with Archie Churchill-Moss weaving his melodeon through gentle words of assurance and hope for the future. It reminded me of Kathryn Roberts ‘A Song To Live By’. The second traditional song is an Appalachian folk ballad called 'Frozen Charlotte', which tells the tale of a girl going to a ball. She refuses to wear a coat over her fine gown on the sleigh and literally freezes to death. This chilling song was originally inspired by a tragic toy, a china doll in the Victoria era. Another album highlight is ‘Man, Friendship’, a song of impermanence written after the the major 2014 floods on the Somerset levels. It serves as a sober reminder to the power of nature, the consequences of climate change and man’s obsession with the material. The highlights that relationships and memories can never be washed away.
This wonderful very high quality album ends on a calm but reflective note with ‘Inversnaid’ a reworking of a Gerald Manley Hopkins poem about the importance of preserving the wilderness for future generations. It was written 150 years ago about a picturesque stream that tumbles into Loch Lomond. The album very fittingly fades to the sound of a woodland stream in Somerset.
The faultless ‘Namer Of Cloud’ certainly does have the wow! factor. Super vocals, songwriting, musicianship and arrangements. Poetic, cinematic and thought provoking.
This showcase and watershed album is released on the 21st September on Navigator Records. Kitty will then set off on a autumn UK tour. On the basis of the album, it’s one you certainly don’t wait to miss.