I’ve been waiting nearly a year for Recaptures, and now it’s finally here! “Hallowed Halls” was the first taste, released last July and one of the best modern composition singles of 2020. “Phemie’s Walk” followed in October, “Lost Takeno” in January. Each single produced an additional layer of excitement over Minihi, the duo of Zands (Melt Yourself Down) and Louise Anna Duggan (Agnes Obel). The album proper, released on the cusp of spring, sings of a new season with color and grace. The music is drenched in chimes and bells, redolent of Easter, especially in the closing tracks; the strings serenade the heart. Celeste, bodhran and vibraphone all play important roles.
At its core, the album is about the connections of the heart. Each track has its own inspiration, beginning with that first single. Just as performance halls were being shut down, “Hallowed Halls” offered a sense of remembrance through reverberation, physical and metaphorical. We sang, we danced, we strummed, and we would again. The silent halls would once again be filled. At the time, we suspected a quicker return; now that the album is ready, the architectural spaces are finally being visited, although not yet filled. “Phemie’s Walk” is about Louise’s final walk with her father, remembered now through music solemn and tender. After the events of the past year, we are all more aware of our own mortality: a sobering thought that with a slight turn in thought can become an appreciation of the current day. The choice is as simple as the contrast between color and black-and-white, as portrayed on the cover. “Lost Takano” (literally) hammers the point home through mallet percussion, reflecting the experience of spending a day in a stormy, isolated Japanese town. The pandemic has taken a toll on us all, but plants still bloom in lockdown, and we can as well.
Perhaps due to the brief running length (half an hour) or long gestation period, any one of these tracks could be a single. The accessibility is high due to the vibrant instrumentation and smooth intersection of acoustic and electronic elements. “Minquiers” (a group of islands south of Jersey) has wonderful stereo effects that intimate the positions of the islands themselves. A few Aubyn Bells can be found on Facebook, but we suspect that the title refers to the gorgeous chimes that wrap around the track, sheltering a splendid vibraphone passage mid-piece. In “Three Portals,” church bells summon feelings of purity, weddings, the passage of time. Louise’s soaring voice brings the album to a close; one can imagine her father singing along, the veil between worlds punctured by heartfelt song. (Richard Allen)