When one looks at track listings and sees that one song is much longer than the others, one immediately senses it will be the go-to track. This is the case with “You’re Beautiful, Like a Mayfly”, which sits in the center of Tom Currie’s new album, waiting to be discovered and loved. Once one knows this, one views the rest of the album in context, as a suite of advancing, shining and receding beauty.
Currie has been active in many recording groups over the past two decades, perhaps most famously with Au Revoir Borealis, contributing “auxiliary atmospheric adornments” (nice alliteration!). In his solo work as The Narrows, the adornments become the primary sounds. No voice is present to carry “Who are the Hidden People”; the expository weight is borne by the piano and strings. Like the huldufólk of the title, these elements hide behind bushes and under rocks, occasionally poking their heads out f0r a look but avoiding the spotlight. The odd right-speaker rustles of the ensuing track sound like the toys of huldufólk children – children who have not yet learned to remain in the shadows, preferring to play in open fields under a bright sun. As clearer tones arise toward the track’s end, the album begins to glow; the children have won the day.
The languid cello tones of “Swimming Pools” lay the foundation for the album’s centerpiece, whose sparkling piano tones blossom like sweetly nectared flowers. In “You’re Beautiful Like a Mayfly”, the ivories are no longer used as atmosphere, but as melody. When the string section enters, the piece is pleasantly reminiscent of A Winged Victory for the Sullen. Uplifting without being saccharine, this track is one of the year’s ambient highlights. As if aware that the album’s peak has been reached, Currie closes the album with two demure, wistful pieces, like the soft evening memories of a particularly sparkling day. A ghost this may be, but beloved and benign. (Richard Allen)
Release date: November 27