There’s very little background information on Irish singer and songwriter Brigid Mae Power – it only adds to the aura of mystery that cloaks her music, but then again any further detail might just as likely prove a distraction or hindrance to one’s appreciation. She was born in London to a big Irish family, then moved to Galway at the age of 12. After which, I know nothing much other than that she pursued a bohemian ethic for her independent creativity, gathering with other artists in places such as an abandoned underground car-park to play impromptu gigs; the sound reverberating around the mass of blank concrete evidently made an impression on her artistic sensibilities. She also intermittently released her own records (often made in lonely, obscure churches), none of which I’ve ever come across (but would love to hear someday) and any reference to which is strangely absent from her website.
We’re told that of late Brigid’s been touring extensively supporting some pretty well-known names, among whom was Oregon-based songwriter Peter Broderick. Following this meeting, Peter invited her into his Portland home studio in the early summer of 2015 to record a collection of new songs that she’d only just finished writing. His intuitive musical direction and active participation ensured a distinctive musical signature to the project, and the result is highly mesmerising. If your idea of a typical singer-songwriter record is a close-miked, intimate, primarily guitar-backed artefact, then Brigid’s eponymous CD in no way approximates that model, instead being predominantly a quietly epic, wondrously other-worldly, trance-like affair, almost akin to an out-of-body experience but experienced from within (if that makes any kind of sense).
Brigid’s pliant, phantasmal voice swoons aloft in rising and falling cadences, engulfed in a heady, beautiful, spacious soundscape that’s awash with carefully crafted atmospherics and reverberances: a near-suffocating, enveloping haze that’s not easy to penetrate, where one’s ears feel like they’re listening through water or fog almost. As a result, the actual lyrics – and their unpredictable, often wayward phrasing – are elusive and may appear to drift in and out of focus (although with careful listening even this aspect may just turn out to be an aural illusion). A dreamlike tempo is consistent throughout the majority of the eight songs, and this can be almost numbing in its effect, especially when taken in tandem with the lushly claustrophobic, opaque (perhaps even at times mildly Spector-esque) production. All of which seems to mirror Brigid’s mental state and her resolutely inward-looking thought processes as she tries to escape some kind of unnamed (and unnameable) experience from the past.
The initial dislocation of I Left Myself For A While represents at once a desired condition (or even wish-fulfilment) and a desperate emotional confusion; here, the method and smooth, soaring melisma of Brigid’s vocal expression may (curiously) seem partially at odds with the particulars of the lyric itself, and here (as indeed throughout much of the disc) it really helps to have the lyrics to hand, for they’re not always ideally intelligible from within their aural cocoon. The sprawling, close-on-eight-minute opening track, the contemplative It’s Clearing Now, is aptly titled, for the words really do seem to pierce the lifting fog as the song proceeds and the singer recognises and clings to her inner peace and ultimately her survival. The “antique” sound of Brigid’s clangorous piano, played with sustain pedals on full, provides an air of welcome homeliness for the tentative meditative reassurances of Sometimes; that piano is also a key element in the texture of Lookin’ At You In A Photo (the melody of which is like a slowed-down version of a jaunty and familiar pop song that I can’t quite place).
A more subdued pianistic beauty evokes a revolving carousel on Watching The Horses (its cyclic motif somewhat reminiscent of one of the themes of Tubular Bells) before being succeeded by pounding hoofbeats, from out of which Brigid’s keening voice calls forth flashes of memory. Let Me Hold You Through This has a desperately bleak yet hymnal quality in its primal air of churchy pump-organ supplication. In contrast, closing song How It Feels (to which Peter contributes an echoing harmony vocal) exposes Brigid’s naked vulnerability now that she’s emerged from the deep waters into the cold light of day with a fragile feeling of safety and comfort that in the end may well prove to be illusory (who can tell?). But Brigid’s tales are liberating in the telling – of that there can be no doubt.
This is an extraordinary album: exceedingly hypnotic and strongly individual, while at the same time intensely moving, elemental and Power-ful (pun very probably intended) – and thus (as is the manner of such things) quite likely not to be to everyone’s taste. But it’s proved all too easy to fall under its spell, and I’m hooked for good, with the disc on pretty constant replay.
Brigid Mae Power Tour Dates
13 Aug Glasgow -The Glad Cafe (Gladfest)
14 Aug Tollbooth – Stirling
15 Aug Grateful Freds – Formby, Liverpool
23 Sept Fukuoka – Papparayray
24 Sept Kyoto – Former Rissei Elementary School
25 Sept Nagoya – Valentine drive
26 Sept Okayama – Inryoji temple
28 Sept Tokyo – Lutheran Ichigaya Hall
29 Sept Tokyo – Fluss
19 October London, UK – St. Pancras Old Church
20 October Bristol, UK – Cube Cinema
21 October Oxford, UK – St Barnabas Church
22 October Manchester, UK – St Michaels Church
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