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Album review: Emily Jane White “Blood/Lines” (Folk Radio UK)

October 22, 2013

Emily Jane White "Blood/Lines"The release notes accompanying ‘Blood/Lines’ tell me that it’s a selected compilation of over 100 sketches written by Emily Jane White between January 2011 and October 2012. The use of the word ‘sketches’ intrigued me; I wondered why not just say ‘demos’ but having now actually listened to the record, all becomes clear. The music is indeed much better described by visual metaphors and is a very impressionistic collection, full of atmosphere.

From the start, Emily Jane White’s guitar and confident, crystalline vocals are very much at the centre of things; on My Beloved fragments of rolling percussion, strings and piano wrap around her voice in a tale of a love that simultaneously completes and separates the two protagonists. Faster Than The Devil is full of ghostly multitracked melodies and heavily reverbed guitar floating on distant piano; while the pulsing heartbeat of Keeley is to be found in its soaring strings and steady bassline as much as in its grieving over a lost relationship.

Thoroughbred is a galloping swirl of reverbed guitar and bells, the soundtrack to a gothic cowboy movie, while Wake is a winter’s tale accompanied by arpeggiated piano and booming bass which drops into an unexpectedly spacious middle eight before returning in a flurry of strings and drums.

The loping rhythm and major chords of Dandelion Daze are an effective juxtaposition to a lyric of hate and lost guns which could make your blood run cold, while the insistent drums and piano of Holiday Song mesh with Emily Jane’s swooping vocals through a number of key changes. Murmuring guitar and piano drive The Roses on to a gathering climax of strings and intricate harmonies before returning to the opening motif for the coda. Closing track The Wolves goes through some complex musical changes against a doomy lyric which invokes the rapture and the end of days.

But these descriptions don’t do justice to a record which conveys such strong mental images. ‘Blood/Lines’ contains a hidden world of half-remembered dreams and half-forgotten nightmares, of abandoned houses and silent streetlit roads; empty, dusty rooms and fragments of torn antique lace. The scenes on ‘Blood/Lines’ are worlds between worlds and the spaces between words, ghost ships passing in the night. This is the music of yesterday and tomorrow, seen through the gauzy curtain of today.

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Originally posted at Folk Radio UK (22 October 2013)

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