We don’t normally publish reviews so far ahead of release, but Clay Pipe Music’s lovely limited edition pressings tend to sell out fast. Today is pre-order day for Balgay Hill: Mornings in Magnolia, and we want to give our readers a shot at procuring the orange vinyl (with matching magnolias) or white vinyl (with pink magnolias). CDs are also available!
As with all of Clay Pipe’s releases, Balgay Hill bears a distinct tone: pastoral, bucolic, nostalgic and warm. These adjectives pop up time and time again in our reviews, underlining the fact that Frances Castle is world-building through sound.
This time around, the tone is perfectly matched to the subject: the daily pandemic walk. Over the course of the last year, Andrew Waslylk “found that his daybreak strolls were seeping into his music.” Quite literally, one can hear the sounds of these strolls in the music, from the birds and rain that launch the day into motion to light traffic and landscaping. Waslylk composed music inspired by faithful walks, and which now may be played while walking, creating a contrast of textures, from the sparse sounds of 2020 inside one’s headphones to the fuller sounds of 2021 without.
Rachel Simpson contributes trumpet and flugelhorn, adding additional warmth. The album sounds like comfort: a familiar routine, slow changes, reminders of the goodness of creation, the beauty of the natural world. A renewed appreciation of nature ~ born of necessity ~ has been a silver lining. Another, albeit less obvious, has been the ability to wring hope from one’s own surroundings. In normal times, we pine for vacations away; over the past year, we stayed close to home.
While half of the titles reference flora, others offer a wry amusement: “Sun Caught Cloud Like the Belly of a Cat,” “Smiling School for Calvinists.” When one’s anxiety is eased, one is better prepared to find humor in the daily grind ~ even when the daily grind has become harder than ever. The latter track in particular sounds like a hopeful stretch of the arms, followed by legs in motion.
As the woodblocks and Rhodes serenade the listener along with the finches and geese, one feels a sense of hiraeth, longing for a time that may never have existed: the melancholic longing for a pre-pandemic peace. Ironically, believing that such a time did exist brings hope that such a time might return. We carry our peace within us, but can water it with images, sounds and experience from the outside. Waslylk discovered this simple truth in the environs of his own community: a park, an estuary, an observatory; and now he shares it with us. Balgay Hill: Morning in Magnolia is the pastel kindness of pink and orange, the sunrise reflected in the opening petals of the awakening day. (Richard Allen)