The Vanishing Dove
The Vanishing Dove is available via:
The E.P., The Torpor of Minds, is available here:
8th December, 2017
I am pacing my pieces so that I feature…
an even number of male and female artists in the run-up to Christmas. It is wonderful discovering new talent and people who make a real impression. I will talk more about Aural Air and her music but, with her in mind, I wanted to discuss a number of different things. I want to return to lo-fi Folk and artists who mix beauty and intrigue alongside emotional depth; Dublin and the importance of recognising music outside the U.K.; artists who have a big potential and hope in 2018; a look at vinyl and music that sounds perfect there; the visual side of music and how Aural Air can build next year; music that has its own skin and personality – getting ahead of the competition in a busy and diverse market. I have been reviewing a lot of artists – and interviewing many folk – and seeing similar kind of music coming through. It has been a little while since I’ve encountered something lo-fi and Folk-based. I put out a moratorium earlier in the year – because I was looking at a lot of Folk music – and there was a general need to embrace something different. I went in the direction of Rock and Electro and then embraced something a bit more colourful and unique. It is back to a genre I have a great knowledge of; affection and a real sense of longing for. It is harder for artists who play this kind of music because, if you look at the critics’ favoured albums from this year, there are very few Folk acts. It is harder to get into the consciousness because the best and biggest albums from any year tend to be a little more bombastic and confident. Folk is a genre that is a little ‘quieter’ and has a reputation for contemplation and introversion. I think this is a little unfair because, if you hear acts such as Bon Iver – who can be labelled as Folk-based – then you see how diverse and exciting he is. I wonder why critics/fans seek music that has a bit more spirit and energy?!
I will move on from this point but I have longed to discover an artist who produces music gentle and soothing but has plenty of flair and passion. That may sound like a contradiction but it is satisfying finding music that has genuine depth and layers. Aural Air is somebody who sources Jeff Buckley and St. Vincent as influences. The latter created, what I feel, is one of the best albums of 2017 in MASSEDUCTION. That is not a Folk album but there are songs on that disc that take the volume down and have a more beautiful and softer edge. Buckley is, as my music idol, someone I am intimately familiar with. I am seeing his name come up more and more and, when you hear Aural Air, you get a real flair of the late American icon. His career might only have spanned six or seven years but, when you listen to the material he left the world – it is undeniable he made a genuine change and gave the world something distinctly his. There has been nobody like him but, listening to musicians now, there are plenty who are inspired by him. Buckley possessed Folk elements and had a love of Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan. In many ways; Aural Air’s sound links the legends of the 1960s/1970s and feeds it through Buckley; takes in a bit of St. Vincent and updates it for a modern audience – adding her own chemistry and recipe into the pot. It is interesting seeing how Folk has developed and mutated but I worry the mainstream is not allowing enough room for it to grow and shine. Aural Air will not race to the big leagues and worry about that now but, in years to come, she’ll want to join her heroes and be able to exact influence on others. She is going about it the right way but I feel we need to allow Folk more space and oxygen – get it to the people and afford it more respect.
I am interested in music from all around the world but, as the year comes to the end, I am looking to get out to the world and investigate international talent. I have been spending a lot of time in the U.K. and struggling to go beyond that. My mind goes to the U.S. and Canada but that is still quite a limited and narrow focus. One can argue the majority of the world’s best and most popular music arrives from these nations – that would be neglecting the range and brilliance one can find outside these nations. I have been aware of Dublin and the Republic of Ireland for years and know how incredible their music is. If you look at the historic acts from here, there are some true treasures and artists who have changed the face of music. This is not to say anything modern, by comparison, will pale into insignificance. Bouts, Æ Mak and Not Monsters are among the hot-tipped Dublin crew one should look out for in 2018. The Klares, Stoat and Heathers have been tipped and, between them, cover a spectrum of sound. I would urge you to check them all out – I have not hyperlinked them but you can find them on social media – and check out how Dublin’s scene is changing and growing. What interests me is how varied and full the music scene is over there. You hear the band and acts coming from the area and it sounds like nothing else. There are a few mainstream artists but, for the most part, the music has a unique tangent and identity. Aural Air fits neatly into the Dublin sect and shows how strong the music of the city is. There is great local media support of music but international sources rarely spend time looking at the music of the E.I.R.E. You can look at other counties like Clare and Roscommon and find great music; pan across to the coasts and discover brilliant sounds. Most of the best music comes from Dublin – that is not to say everything great comes from here!
One of the resolutions we should be making for 2018 is embracing artists from outside of London. I am guilty of featuring too many capital-based musicians and will amend my ways! It is going to be a busy year and I am really pumped seeing terrific Irish music getting some attention. How this will manifest itself into true exposure and recognition, I am not sure. I hope more media sources recognise acts like Aural Air and realise how worthy they are. She will look to get some international dates – and time in the U.K. – and push her music to new faces. I know there are some reputable and fabulous venues in Dublin; a city that provides its musicians with some excellent spaces. The Grand Social and Vicar Street are among the fantastic spaces artists can cut their teeth. It is not only the great artists and venues that compel and intrigue the senses: the aroma and energy of Dublin get into the blood and fascinates readily. I have never been over there but know full well how magical and addicting Dublin is. The culture there is phenomenal and that inspires musicians to write stunning songs. Aural Air will be looking around the world and where she can go but there is a pretty decent and creative base for her to thrive in. One can claim, if she lived in London, her music would not be afforded the same kind of qualities and space it gets in Dublin. She is going to go very far and will accrue new fans in 2018. I hope she remains in Ireland because there is a great nation with supportive and fantastic people. Maybe, in years to come, relocation to nations like England or the U.S. might provide her greater commercial exposure and opportunities. Right now, when you hear her music, one gets affair of the people and vibrancy of the city; the pastoral and countryside beauty that gets under the skin.
The last few years have seen various albums and sounds take prominence in the music scene. This year; it has been one of the most varied and eclectic I have seen. Whether you are a fan of Lorde or Kendrick Lamar; keen on Thundercat or Phoebe Bridgers – you have been spoilt when it comes to quality and innovation. My personal favourite album of this year comes from Lorde (Melodrama) but there will be many critics sharing contrasting views; there is no clear-cut album that can walk away in my mind. Last year saw Beyoncé’s Lemonade get huge respect; Kendrick Lamar has been a huge name the past few years – Hip-Hop and R&B getting a lot of acclaim and respect. That will continue into 2018 but, when one considers the underground, will it be as obvious as all that? I feel new music is a different beast and there is going to be a genuine place for Folk. I have argued how it gets very little respect – compared to other genres – but there are so many hungry young writers who are pushing the genre forward. Aural Air, as I have stated, is a woman who imbues the beauty of Jeff Buckley but has a unique edge to her. You feel the passion and tenderness come out but there are so many colours and ideas wrestling alongside one another. It is impossible to predict how music will shift and transform but I feel there will be a bigger role for Folk-based sounds and acoustic measures. Not only will Aural Air get a lot of respect from critics and her peers: there are many venues over here that will want to see her perform. I will come to that in the conclusion - but she should be thinking about booking some time in the U.K. and exploring some of the spaces we have over here.
Before I come on to look at vinyl and succeeding in the market; it is worth me noting how incredible and original the music of Aural Air is. I have been comparing her music to others but that is just a guide, really. It is unfair to lump her too firmly with others but I mean it as a compliment. One of the things that get to me is the vocals and sounds she can produce. I listen to the voice and it takes me somewhere safer and special. It is unlike anything out there but has familiar tones and alienates nobody. A reason why Aural Air stands out is because of the themes she explores and the titles she employs. An E.P. called The Torpor of Minds instantly spikes the senses and gets you hooked. It was released a few days ago and, since it came out, has been gaining good reviews and a lot of respect. I am pleased for Laura Rai (Aural Air) but not shocked. She is a hardworking and dedicated musician who has put her everything into the work. Whilst I am not going to review the entire E.P.; I have been stunned by the width and quality that runs throughout – I have heard every track and can attest to its power and nuance. You return to various songs and keen to discover new elements and possibilities. That is the highest compliment you can pay any artist out there. I wonder how Aural Air will move in 2018; whether there will be another E.P. or plans for gigs. I will investigate more in the conclusion but the door is open and the world is waiting. Released on the Irish independent label, L Records; the new E.P. from Aural Air; the enigma and eeriness she can produce has caused many critics to bow down and offer their praise. Plenty have applauded her individual sound and qualities but I hope more gets behind her and push the music far and wide. It is getting reception in the U.K. but you cannot overlook all the continuous and fabrics that make the artist someone to hold to the heart. In a busy and challenging music industry; here is someone who will remain and continue to grow as the years tick by.
I will come to the song/E.P. very soon but wanted to discuss vinyl and how popular it is right now. One might assume this an odd diversion but it is relevant when I think about the music of Aural Air. It is all well and good artists emphasising and relying on streaming and digital music but many are overlooking the beauty and importance of the physical formats. I am a huge vinyl fan and am actually writing a piece about it later – whether it needs to be more affordable and ways of ensuring it remains relevant and demanded. I feel those who appreciate the soul and genuine physicality of music will always stick with vinyl. You cannot beat the sensation of getting a record and holding it; putting it on the turntable and watching the needle drop – hearing the slight crackle before the music starts. It is a sense of theatre and tease that delights music lovers and has not lost any of its charm and wonder. You can argue streaming and digital music offers convenience and a modern touch – do we really need vinyl and is it reserved for those who want to live in the past?! I would argue against that because vinyl offers the chance to discover music in all its fullness and best. You can stop and relax; put a record on and really get to grips with it – rather than rush through it and play it off a laptop. The reason I bring up this subject is because Aural Air’s music would sound perfect on a record. She is dedicated to giving the listener the best experience possible and I am keen for her to explore the vinyl market. I am not sure whether she has considered it but one imagines the beautiful music she produced would sound transcendent and alive on a vinyl.
I will come to her new music soon but, staying on this point, it is worth noting how savvy and hard-working she is as an artist. I have seen few who put in the same effort and make their music as widely available as Aural Air. You have a number of platforms to hear it on and (Aural Air) keeps her social media fresh and updated. There are few artists who can claim this and, in an industry becoming suffocating and jam-packed; there is no real excuse for negating these requirements. It speaks volumes about an artist who is keen to build her career and does not want to be overlooked. She is going about things the right way and making big steps by the month. With an E.P. out; there is every sign to suggest Aural Air will be a big name to watch in 2018. The music industry is open to everyone but only rewards those who put in the graft and time. No fear when it comes to Aural Air as she is always keeping busy and putting the music out to the people. Her blend of atmospheric music and stunning vocals; the vivid and candid songwriting, paired with the sensation one gets when listening to it, means you are transported and get into the head of a fantastic songwriter. I am excited to see what her year holds and exactly what she can achiev. You know she will get a lot of gig requests and, as the E.P. settles and gets respect, many people will want to see Aural Air perform near them.
I wanted to focus on The Vanishing Dove as I feel it is the strongest cut from The Torpor of Minds. It begins with twirling and beguiling strings that have high-pitched delight but there is a complexity at work. The notes melt and delight; you get visions of the horizon and moonlight; all manner of possibilities and beauty. It is an evocative and sensual start that causes the head to swim and the voice to swoon. Soon enough; there is percussion stiffening and the mood gets tighter and more dangerous. The “Floating Bridge of Dreams” is brought in and we are taking into a semi-spiritual world that soothes the senses and gets the imagination working. Some of the words get lost beneath the composition – maybe it is my ears but some words are hard to pick up – but it is the way the music and vocals unite that gives The Vanishing Dove its aplomb and strengths. I love how the guitar continues to change and build; the percussion does not impede but manages to summon up power and focus. The heroine is flying through the air and bringing the listener with her. You get impressions of the open world and everything out there; free to allow the body to move and the mind to expand. I got all kind of visions and sights when hearing the song unfold and explore. There is a light one can find, as it is told, when everything is dark and gone. The vocal continues to impress and go in all sort of directions. The range and beauty of Aural Air’s voice is to be commended and recommended. She has a sharper edge which brings out the sense of urgency: able to take things down and provide soothe when required. I have compared her with the likes of St. Vincent and Jeff Buckley but, in a way, she goes down her own path and only really employs a fraction of each in her own material. In terms of quality and boldness; one can detect the same kind of spirit and confidence of these artists – years down the line, she might gain the same kind of plaudits as both.
The Vanishing Dove is as much about is mood and complete whole than the story itself. One finds their own story and viewpoint from the song – a few of the lines do get lost a bit – but there it is how everything comes together that impresses me. Whilst I would recommend the need for a little bit more clarity when it comes to mixing the vocal in (making sure every word is heard and not distorted) that is the only fault I can find with the music. Aural Air’s vocals and sound compensates for any shortcomings and gets right into the brain. It is hard to find a voice that is original and genuinely hits you hard the first time you hear it. That is a testament to a strong and passionate songwriter who wants to be remembered and remain. I know she will continue to make music for a long time and, on the basis of songs like this, many new fans will come her own way. What I love about The Vanishing Dove is how the song has that eeriness to it but there is plenty of passion, hope and beauty to be found. The contrasts and mixtures are what makes the song so strong and alluring. The composition creates plenty of curiosity and helps elevate the vocal and provide its own story. Each listener will have their own view and interpretation of the song. It is not something you listen to and figure out right away. It takes a few listens before everything comes together; each time the song is played you get new light and interpretation. To me, I was thinking about something personal and meaningful to Aural Air. She is someone who has faced challenges and hurdles but is determined to move on and make her way. I may be missing something but I felt a lot of her heart and soul come out in the music. Whatever your interpretation of the song; it is a fantastic cut from the E.P., The Torpor of Minds.
I have talked a lot about the Irish artist and all her qualities. Many overlook cities like Dublin and assume it is not going to have a lot of great music. We all assume the U.S. and U.K. is where all the best music is – we are neglecting the other nations and how much good music comes from there. Dublin is a proud city and has so many great artists playing here. Aural Air knows this and ensures the people are turning on to her sounds. I have heard The Torpor of Minds and recommend everyone gets involved with it and hear it in its complete state. Let us look forward and those artists who have the chance to make changes in the scene and remain there for years. I feel Aural Air has made good progress but she will want to get out to the world and explore various nations. I feel she can have a say in the U.S. and make an impact in the U.K. It is not beyond the realms of possibility seeing her in the mainstream – there are similar artists already there who make you believe she could make it pretty soon. Maybe I am racing ahead but let us not underestimate the potency and quality of Aural Air. Here is an artist that has an incredible sound and gets into the heart with ease. I am excited to see where the music goes and how she grows; whether there is going to be tour dates in London – if she comes over here and we can catch her up close. This year has been a very busy and exciting one for Aural Air so one can forgive the desire to recharge and spend a bit of downtime on her own this Christmas. After the celebrations and festivities; many will look her way and wonder what she has planned for 2018. Given the strength of The Torpor of Minds and the reviews it has been picking up; I have every confidence Aural Air will…
MAKE huge impressions in 2018.
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