|Karine Polwart with Pippa Murphy||A Pocket of Wind Resistance|
Karine Polwart with Pippa Murphy — A Pocket of Wind Resistance ≡→ The soundtrack from a lauded theatre production, a multilayered portrait of life on (and flying above) a Midlothian peat bog. A Pocket Of Wind Resistance combines powerful storytelling and songwriting to produce something special. Polwart and Murphy make Fala Flow seem unnervingly real, conjuring atmosphere through quiet incantation and simple but resonant instrumentation. They also deliver a strong political message in the best traditions of folk music, making health equality something to sing about. Karine Polwart’s companion to her Wind Resistance piece is a brilliant record that deserves to be heard from start to end. Scots songwriter Karine Polwart combines the economy and universality of the folk storytelling tradition with a probing intellect and compassionate lyricism. Twice winner of “Best Original Song” at the UK~wide BBC Folk Awards.
≡→ A former children’s rights worker, Karine allows images, narratives, questions and wry comic asides to do much of her work. She tries never to say too much.
≡→ She holds a Masters degree in philosophy.
≡→ Pippa Murphy is a composer, sound designer, arranger, producer and musical director living in Scotland. She works with orchestras, ensembles, bands, artists, dancers, writers and performers in the UK and abroad.
Karine born: 23 December 1970 in Stirlingshire, Scotland, UK
Origin: Pathheid, Banknock, Stirlingshire, Scotland
Album release: 17 November, 2017 / physical rel. 1 Dec., 2017
Record Label: Hudson Records
01 All On a Summer’s Evening 4:18
02 The Moor Speaks 4:37
03 Lark in the Clear Air 2:57
04 Labouring and Resting 3:15
05 Tyrannic Man’s Dominion 7:16
06 Place to Rest and Mend 3:41
07 A Benediction 3:53
08 Small Consolation 6:23
09 White Old Woman of the Night 2:53
10 Sphagnum Mass for a Dead Queen 4:47
11 Lullaby for a Lost Mother 1:39
12 Remember the Geese 3:15
13 Molly Sime’s Welcome to Salter’s Road 6:32
14 We Are All Bog Born 1:03
℗ 2017 Hudson Records
• Pippa Murphy & Karine Polwart — Producers
• Stuart Hamilton — Engineer
• Mattie Foulds — Additional Recording Engineer
• Andy Bell — Mix Engineer
• Dean Honer — Master
• Karine Polwart — Guitar, Indian harmonium,sansula, synth & vocals
• Pippa Murphy — Sound Designer & Piano
• Corrina Hewat — Harp
• Sandra Mackay — Gaelic vocal
• Kevin McGuire — Bass
• Calum McIntyre — Drums, percussion, glockenspiel, marimba
• Kate Young — Wailing
• Cover Artwork — Laurence Winram
• Photography — Sandy Butler
• Graphic Design — Robin Beatty
→ Karine Polwart with Pippa Murphy: A Pocket of Wind Resistance review — warm, wise, compelling.
Emily Mackay | Sun 26 Nov. 2017 08.00 GMT | Score: *****
→ The ground around her has long given inspiration to Scottish folk artist Karine Polwart; last year the peat bogs near her home in Fala, Midlothian, gave birth to her first theatre show, Wind Resistance, incorporating spoken word, song and sound design from composer Pippa Murphy to recount sad local histories and draw connections between bird migration, childbirth and landscape. The album version steps softly in the lightest arrangements on the likes of the traditional Lark in the Clear Air, but its blend of historical drama, ballad ghosts and philosophical memoir (geese, Polwart muses on Labouring and Resting, are “sky~born socialists”)is compelling, made as intimate as if it were in your own skull by Polwart’s warm, wise, attention~commanding voice. → https://www.theguardian.com/
By Tom Bolton | The Quietus , November 24th, 2017 09:35
Feature by Harry Harris | 31 Oct 2017
→ We speak to singer~songwriter Karine Polwart about her new album A Pocket of Wind Resistance, the companion to her Edinburgh Festival show, Wind Resistance.
→ The image of the folk singer is often a very solitary one — travelling troubadours with guitars on their backs and notebooks scrawled with ideas and conversations. Popping up in one session, before heading onto the next, constantly on the move. For Karine Polwart, one of the UK’s most highly regarded folk artists and songwriters, the opposite is true. Collaboration has always been key, and nowhere is this more apparent than her new album A Pocket of Wind Resistance, a companion to her Edinburgh Festival show Wind Resistance, and something which took off almost by accident.
→ “I sort of made up the pitch on the phone,” she says, having been approached by a small festival in London who were programming a series of performances on the theme of air. “I had this notion to try something that was different, that wasn’t just songs, that had spoken word and a connecting theme — but I conjured the title Wind Resistance on the phone. The heart of it was there but it was quite messy.”
→ That performance was followed by a gig at the Traverse Bar in Edinburgh, attended by David Greig, artistic director of The Lyceum Theatre. Since then, aided and abetted by a crack team of musicians, dramaturgs, and performers, Wind Resistance has taken on a life of its own. It was specifically the musical collaboration with sound designer Pippa Murphy that helped give the show its wings: “I knew she lived in the next village over, we had friends in common, and I thought she might be up for this. That’s been a revelation, I think it’s properly transformed how I write music, and I’ve got a new pal.”
→ This transformation is readily apparent on the record. Take the song Salters Road (appearing on A Pocket of Wind Resistance as Molly Sime’s Welcome to Salters Road), a story about Polwart’s old neighbour Molly Kristensen, which first appeared on her last solo album Traces. It was already a beautiful song ('The horseman’s only daughter takes the Friday boat to Bergen / And the waves swell like a barley field that’s ready to lay down' is a lyric many songwriters would be envious of), but its second life here casts it in a whole new light — the story is homed in on and expanded, tiny details picked out and given additional depth with spoken word and ambient sound. A song that was already deeply moving and powerful almost becomes a piece of theatre in and of itself. → “Essentially the story of how Molly was born is one of the anchor points for the whole show. It’s amazing how that surfaced. It was really generous of her family to share her story, but it felt like it connected so many threads — it felt like it made the whole thing very human. It’s more like a eulogy.”
→ The threads across the record are quite varied. At the heart of it is the annual migration of two thousand pink~footed geese to Fala Flow (a peat~bog near Polwart’s home), and how they offer wind resistance to each other to aid each other’s flight, but from this the songs take in motherhood, environmentalism, history and Scottish culture. In particular, there is a recurring motif of hospitals, of care, of the precariousness of life, which acts as a biting political undercurrent to the whole record.
→ “That’s the whole backdrop, the whole political culture of how people are treated when they’re vulnerable, that they need to be punished, that’s absolutely despicable — I’ve picked the motif of pregnancy and birth deliberately because it is universal, even now we take for granted that we have access to care that allows most women to live! To remember two generations ago, when my grandparents were born, post~World War One, 20 to 25 percent of women might be expected to die — it’s so easy to forget that, we’re not so far away from precarity and it could come back, and I see a culture of willing it back. And there’s the sheer ecological precariousness, we’re living as if climate change isn’t real — it distresses me.”
→ This precarity is perhaps best illustrated on Small Consolation, one of the real highlights of the album — what begins as a pregnant woman going to attend a group of fledgling swallows, fallen from their nest, injured and dying, becomes a wonderfully detailed story of how that migration takes place, before finishing on a series of perfectly pitched declaratives. It’s Polwart’s songwriting brilliance in microcosm — poetically drawn specificity and detail, often unflinching, and then broader brush strokes, sucker~punches when you are at your most vulnerable. ‘For every breath that leaves me now, another comes to fill me / And for every death that grieves me now, I swear the next will surely kill me.’ Do not approach this song without a box of tissues in the vicinity.
→ One thing that’s always set Polwart apart as a folk singer is her willingness to push the genre forward. Even when interpreting older material, it’s always contextualised in a way that makes it relevant to a contemporary audience: “I sing them and hear them now, I don’t hear them as historic period pieces,” she says. “I hear them as potentially relevant. I’m not interested in singing them for any other reason.” The inclusion of The Death of Queen Jane (appearing here as Sphagnum Mass for a Dead Queen), another song which had a previous life for Polwart having featured on 2007’s Fairest Floo’er, is a good example. Its story of a troubled and ultimately tragic labour mirrors the themes of the rest of the record, but even the initial concept of the piece — a more thematic, expansive work based off of folk song principles and ideas — speaks to her ambition and artistry.
→ “Amongst the folkies I know there’s a desire to bust out of the conventional gig and album format, definitely, not just in Scotland – to try things in a slightly different way.” One of the reasons she cites for this comes from the activity around the Scottish independence referendum, and how that brought together a lot of artists from disparate fields, and encouraged a kind of wider creative community. This was where she first came into contact with Greig, as well as becoming aware of the likes of Loki — there’s definitely a shared DNA between the spoken word elements of her songs and the storytelling of Scotland’s hip~hop scene, even if they feel sonically separated.
→ Karine Polwart has been on the scene for coming on two decades now, from solo work to collaborative projects like Songs of Separation, to this, to future plans for everything from podcasts to children’s books — and another solo album expected late next year. “I feel like I’m stepping into what I really want to do,” she says as our conversation winds up. Momentum is a funny thing — one chance phone conversation which leads to a spontaneous pitch, a scratch~gig, and then all of a sudden you’re picking up speed.
→ Collaboration has always been key, whether that be migrating geese aiding each other in their flight, or musicians pushing out beyond their scene to create new and important work. Wind Resistance, captured perfectly in this record, has a bit of life in it yet — a run at the Lyceum, Perth next year, and the likelihood of one in London, will all help push the show higher. For any new fans that she acquires as a result — and the chances are there will be many — they’ll find out quickly that this has always been the direction she’s been heading in, and she doesn’t show any sign of stopping. → http://www.theskinny.co.uk/
→ A stunning exploration of the myths and stories of the land around us → The Telegraph *****
→ This is a beautiful and brilliant piece of work → Sunday Express ****
→ The Financial Times *****
→ The Skinny *****
→ The Independent ****
→ MOJO ****
Album Review by Harry Harris | 20 Nov 2017 | Score: *****
→ Wind Resistance — Karine Polwart’s musical meditation on maternity, Midlothian, and migration — has been lavished with praise ever since it debuted at the Edinburgh International Festival in 2016. A Pocket of Wind Resistance manages to capture the essence of the stage production, whilst still tying together as a coherent record in its own right.
→ For the uninitiated, there are two or three concurrent narratives going on across the album’s fourteen tracks. The story of an annual geese migration to the bogs around Fala Flow; that of Will and Roberta Sime and their unborn child; and also that of Karine herself, her own relationship to the story, and to Will and Roberta’s daughter Molly. Karine has always been a narrative songwriter, but here she’s flexing her muscles even further. Molly Sime’s Welcome To Salter’s Road, which first appeared on her SAY~nominated album Traces as Salters Road, gives an already beautiful song more room to breathe, and placing it fully in the context of the story gives it a cinematic quality.
→ Huge credit must be given to Pippa Murphy, the sound designer with whom Karine worked on the show. With brief ambient flourishes, these comparatively pared~back songs are set perfectly in context — the rhythm of wind on Tyrannic Man’s Dominion, a re~interpretation of Now Westlin Winds; the constant chatter of bird song, and a slight ghostliness added to some of Karine’s spoken word moments, particularly A Place To Rest And Mend. Tiny shifts in context that help push the story forward.
→ Far be it from us to tell you how to listen to music, but A Pocket of Wind Resistance deserves to be sat through start to finish — at least for the first couple of times. Not that the songs don’t work on their own, because they absolutely do, but the overall bleed from one to the next, the movement of the narrative, is what makes this such a brilliant piece of work. → http://www.theskinny.co.uk/
→ As a composer Pippa has been involved in performances, recordings, collaborations, installations and multimedia work in the UK and abroad. She has written music for BBC Radio 4, BBC Radio 3, BBC SSO, Scottish Opera, Hanoi Contemporary Music Ensemble, St Magnus Festival, Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, Celtic Connections, Scottish Flute Ensemble, Paragon Ensemble, Aberdeen Art Gallery and for numerous contemporary theatre companies including Birmingham Rep, Dundee Rep, Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, Tron Theatre, Glasgow, Traverse Theatre Company, Edinburgh, 7:84. Fire Exit/David Leddy, Janis Claxton Dance.
→ Pippa’s works are multi~layered and multi~sensory. Some pieces draw on the full effects of combining sound design with orchestras and voices. Her music has an immediacy, which is often dramatic and expressive. She is particularly interested in vocal techniques, phonemes, electronica and ‘found’ sound, her training in Indian Classical music informs many of her works.
→ Pippa has directed many creative education projects throughout the world and has worked in many different musical and social contexts. She has devised pieces and trained teachers with the British Council in Scotland, Syria, Vietnam, Botswana, India, Iran and China. She has composed with asylum seekers in Glasgow, Manchester and Edinburgh and lectures at Edinburgh, St Andrews and Aberdeen Universities. She works regularly in cross~arts and multi~media collaborations and has worked with ensembles including Scottish Opera, Scottish Ensemble, BBC SSO, McFalls Chamber, Red Note Ensemble, SOUND Festival.
→ Pippa completed her BMus, MA and PhD in composition at Birmingham University. She was Vice~Chair of Sonic Arts Network (now Sound and Music) for 5 years and has written for Whitakers Almanac, Sunday Times and The Scotsman. She was Artist in Residence at the Scottish Parliament 2015. She has recently written a major new work ‘Anamchara — Songs of Friendship‘ for Scottish Opera’s youth orchestra and chorus with writer Alexander McCall Smith for over 100 performers as part of the Commonwealth Games at the Theatre Royal, Glasgow. Her sound design for Lyceum Theatre’s production of Karine Polwart’s Wind Resistance in the Edinburgh International Festival has received 5 star reviews. Her music to POP~UP Duets presented by Janis Claxton Dance in the National Museums of Scotland has also been awarded 5~star reviews.
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|Karine Polwart with Pippa Murphy||A Pocket of Wind Resistance|