A sumptuous yet mysterious listen...

There’s so much to unpack in Hannah Peel’s work, that pulling upon one thread can lead to entire worlds falling out of her sonic cupboard. New album ‘Fir Wave’ is a case in point – dipping into the past (the work of Delia Derbyshire and library crucible KPM are honoured), there’s also a carefree wandering into the future, a sense of grappling with the unknown.

Cross-referencing everything from the Earth’s ecological cycles to Japanese art, this array of detail shouldn’t distract from the sheer sonic beauty Hannah Peel conjures on her new album. ‘Wind Shadow’ is a synth balm, while the more propulsive, techno-edged ‘Emergence In Nature’ retains its organic sheen amid its percussive pirouettes.

‘Patterned Formation’ dips into early 70s synth incarnations, recalling at times Brian Eno’s early solo work. ‘Carbon Cycle’ meanwhile finds Hannah Peel relishing in fragmented elements of degraded sound, applying an orchestral swoop to her arcane digitalism.

A record that feels exquisitely unified, ‘Fir Wave’ is a tightly bound song cycle. Each mood is distinct, but Hannah Peel is able to let them overlap, resulting in rich and evocative elements of nuance. The pun-tastic ‘Ecovocative’ for example radiates in a beatific glow, something that contrast with the sparsity which opens the adjacent title track; nothing is permanent in her world, but equally nothing is ever truly discarded.

Ending with the gossamer undulations of synthetic sound that ripple through ‘Reaction Diffusion’, we’re put in mind of those early Kraftwerk experiments, or even Harmonia’s recordings. A piece in which contrary states are allowed to communicate, the pulsating bedrock of ‘Reaction Diffusion’ underpins hazy layers of sound that glow with a metallic sheen. It’s beautiful and immersive, but also foreboding; a piece whose majesty is attached to no small degree of mystery.

Having won international acclaim for her work on Game Of Thrones: The Last Watch documentary, Hannah Peel has responded by moving inwards, by finessing and doubling down on the instincts that drive her. ‘Fir Wave’ is a subtle triumph, a record whose innate beauty dissipates to reveal complex aesthetic machinery, while never fully revealing its secrets.

8/10

Words: Robin Murray

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