a closer listen

Cicely Irvine ~ Excavation

A September-soft light flutters around Cicely Irvine‘s Excavation. The new season brings with it a new start, a new day. The golden music of Excavation awakens in the Fall.

Summer has gone, but its ghost still haunts the air. The sunscreen has not yet returned to its cupboard (its prison), and neither are the heavy jackets on the coatrack. Excavation retains the dazzling clarity of a shallow rock pool at low tide, shining with lucid reflections of white light as it snakes over the waters. Excavation has the feel of Autumn, though – its Day One, not as it slips into the snowy dress of Winter.

Cold, mist-strewn mornings; monotonous quilts of grey cloud interjected by the damp whiplash of cold rain; fog lingering all day; warmer sweaters taken out of the closet; costumes and candy, tricks and treats; long nights where it’s dark at half past four in the afternoon.

No, Excavation soundtracks the stunningly golden display of Autumn as the leaves begin to burn and the soft light fizzles weakly in its dim, out-of-focus glow.

The ever-impressive Eilean Records wrap up Irvine’s music in shades of brown, orange and yellow. The skeletal leaves curl, crinkle and eventually drop, continuing their descent towards a shallow grave, and so too does the piano swirl and swirl, given a gentle lift and an extra second of life by the reverb’s tiny tail. The notes are caressed, producing a kind landing. The passing is a thing of beauty, shooting a final burst of stunning color into the air.

blood-red

ash and flame

citrus-yellow

A pump organ, icy-veined, buffers the music, prophesying of colder things to come, but the brighter, apple-sweet melodies of a plucked guitar retain some of its warmth, providing a welcome contrast with its ye-olde-banquet atmosphere. The last of the sunshine soaks into the skin. Then it disappears.

As Autumn tightens its grip, dulled beats occasionally crunch underfoot. Mud starts to stick to sneakers. Vocals are looped and then softly manipulated, rising as if on a breeze scented with the smell of burning, ashen leaves. Smoky tones sit beside a homely piano, which comforts like a steaming, homemade soup. The brighter clarity of a music box and a glockenspiel also brings back the nostalgia of a happy childhood, when kicking up leaves and then running through them was the ultimate kind of fun. Pure and sweet music – innocent, perhaps – which justifies itself in a later interlude of birdsong. For the most part, the tracks are like pocket memories, dedications to a delicious season that has a life all of its own. Fall’s life is in the turning of nature – its death, sleep and renewal – and that warms the heart against the chilly, depressing thoughts of an approaching Winter. (James Catchpole) 

Available here