wed 24/07/2024

Album: Aoife Nessa Frances - Protector | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Aoife Nessa Frances - Protector

Album: Aoife Nessa Frances - Protector

Alluring second album from the distinctive Irish singer-songwriter

Aoife Nessa Frances's 'Protector': an album pushing stylistic buttons

There’s a song by Kevin Ayers called “The Lady Rachel”. It was on his 1969 debut solo LP Joy Of A Toy. Play it alongside “This Still Life”, the second track on the second album from Ireland’s Aoife Nessa Frances and the aesthetic kinship is clear. The differing genders of the singer-composers aside, one could swap with the other and snugly fit onto either release.

It’s not that the Kerry-recorded Protector sounds like it seeks to recreate the past, but that Frances has a sensibility – whether innate and instinctive or intentional – tapping into a seam of archetypal yet idiosyncratic songwriting with a lineage. The album’s fourth track has a swirl of viola and violin nodding, albeit in a restrained way, to The Velvet Underground’s “Black Angel’s Death Song”. Hints of Young Marble Giants’s Alison Statton permeate “Chariot”. This song’s wordless backing vocal and keyboard refrain evoke “Hey Joe”. Album closer “Day Out of Time” conjures images of Mazzy Star at their most direct.

Clearly, then, Protector pushes stylistic buttons. It also has a greater focus than Frances’s debut album Land of No Junction. The songs are more linear, and there’s an added sense of drama: “Back to Earth” builds and builds until it reaches a point when it can go no further and then suddenly fades, as if out of breath. Falling off this precipice is in keeping with the lyrical concerns, which seem to be about a thwarted or truncated relationship and a concomitant wish for protection.

The only concern with this meticulously crafted sound world is that the tempos of all eight songs barely rise above that of a slow walking pace, and the same stately measures can be reprised from one track to the next. Some rhythmic variety would made Protector more dynamic, less etiolated (it was the same when she played live last year). Nonetheless, being sucked into this particular sonic vortex is unavoidable.


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