The latest Eilean Rec release (the 60th) comes from new artist Cicely Irvine called “Excavation”. Irvine (b. 1990) is a musician and sound artist based in Stockholm, Sweden. She has been making music and sound design for film, radio and performance art. “Excavation” is her debut release and the recordings were made between 2007 and 2017.
With such a broad time for the completion of the album you would be thinking that it would be a compilation and with the difference in the material it could lead you to different points in the decade of its genesis. However, as a reviewer you don’t know the age of the individual recordings nor their autobiographical meanings (if indeed they are there).
“Bow” is the opener with oscillating drones, field recordings, beats, haunting vocals which are built-in harmony with each other and give a dream like feel to the music.
“Sans” long drones punctuated by the glockenspiel giving glitch like sound is accompanied by the musical saw and melodica. Unfortunately it doesn’t really go anywhere, which is a shame.
“Hjärtat” (translates to “Heart”) industrial like heart beats welcome drones, presumably from pump organ alongside minor field recordings. Much like the previous track, this is more of a sketch or intro for a full piece.
“Come Around” features Irvine’s layered vocals over a buzzing drone section which ebbs and flows, but towards the end the vocals start to manipulated to glitching alongside synths as if they are spluttering, before drones bring the decay to the end.
“Eftertanken” (After the Tank) sees the introduction of minimal piano, which is probably the first track that give you the feel of the recording locations (in bedroom studios in Gotthenburg and Stockholm).
“Organ” sees the pump organ front and central. The tones generated and the relaxed pace of the music work well together and give a feeling of rebirth.
“Takten” (“The Pace”) sees Irvine demonstrate her virtuosity on guitar with a frantic section layered over the original section which has a more picked feeling. After a brief interlude the piece changes in tone and intensity and becomes almost a facsimile of itself.
“The Deer” sees slow acoustic guitar gentle pickings matched with field recordings of squalls and Irvine’s vocals, bells and drones combining in a rich sounding track.
“Genom Skogen” (“Through the Forest”) is a whimsical piece of childlike melodies of backwards loops, field recordings, pump organ, bells. Together they give an almost nursery rhyme like feel that has both innocence and a slight sinister touch.
“Heavy” affected vocal loops, field recordings, fog like drones, bells, bass thumps come together in a loop based piece that has a sound collage effect.
“Natt” (“Night”) glitchy bells with sound effects and musical of ox sounds acts as an intro of sorts for “Slutet” (“End”) which has a bell-like sound from the glockenspiel as well as long drones, field recordings of wind, distant guitar. The slow drones combine with the field recordings to give a feeling of loneliness, while the snatches of guitar sound like transmissions from a broken radio.
“Right” sees percussive guitar beating with a rippling rhythm that sounds like cassette tape that has been chewed out rewound and replayed resulting in a warped sound.
“4.38 AM” multilayered vocals each with different melodies start of this track with drones bringing in light before the vocals return over scraping field recordings and bird song as if she is welcoming in the morning and the sun is starting to rise.
“Ljudland” drones that sound like a rusty gate screaming as it is opened are joined by what sounds like melodica which has a long breathy drones, field recordings of water and bird song which lead the track out.
“Your Eyes” drones and then beats with cut up Synth sections make this the most electronica track. Synth drones buzz in and our, bell-like loops provide a counterpoint to this beats, which increase with intensity before retreating to a Dubby section. The Dubby section leads to the end and as it reaches its end the beats have a static noise feel.
I have read a couple of very positive reviews for this release, but I am not hearing what others are. There are elements that work, but the overall feeling I have of the release is one of confusion. You are not sure what sort of album you are listening to and the feeling is of sketches that are not fully fleshed out. Tracks like “Bow”, “Cone Around” and “Your Eyes” work well, while some other don’t. I think if the ideas for the pieces be more focused and narrowed down, then the future shows some promise.