The concept album is a much-maligned tradition, but only because too many artists go overboard. Selkie is a concept album done right, with a simple premise based on a well known legend. From Scottish and Irish mythology to movies such as Ondine, Song of the Sea and The Secret of Roan Inish, the story of a part human, part seal has unsettled listeners for centuries. Animated Matter‘s album adds more enchantment to the lore. It’s only fitting that the artists are male and female, and that Hannah sings (albeit briefly), drawing comparison to Hans Christian Andersen’s story The Little Mermaid.
The music is beguiling, beginning with deep sea bells. The selkie is swimming, enjoying her natural habitat. One imagines darts of light refracting from the scales of schools of iridescent fish. At the end of “teeming,” a wordless voice echoes through the bubbles. “current” is darker and deeper, the vocalizations otherworldly, a lament or a farewell as the selkie considers an alternate mode of life and form. “manta” moves slowly, considering its options. The legends are possessed by an awful beauty, a trade of ability for love, and often a hidden pelt, a slip of the tongue, and the sudden end of romance or possession, depending on the tone of the tale.
At the start of “return,” David’s chimes enter a submerged sort of calm, decisions made, sacrifices complete. Insistent static motions from the sidelines, a reminder that this traded life is fragile, a delicate balance that can be upset by a single sentence or opened chest. We must keep this secret. A drone threatens the equilibrium, then recedes. For the first and solitary time, the selkie sings purely, openly, boldly, and seems content. From this point forward, the tale might lead in one of two directions: horror or peace. Thankfully, restfully, David and Hannah choose peace.
Love can be mysterious, dangerous, and unpredictable. Sometimes beings find each other, and though the world doubts their connection, they care not. Animated Matter lands on the side of love, impossible, delirious, magical. What a wonderful launch to the month of the valentine. (Richard Allen)