Ethereal Restraint: A Review of Eivør’s Bridges

Eivor_CoverEthereal Restraint: A Review of  ’s Bridges

By Michael Mullen




I had to let this album percolate into my consciousness after repeated listening. I liked it well enough at first, but my experience of it was clinical and somewhat detached. I was not grabbed and shaken. I listened a couple of times and then had to put it down due to the intrusions of life, and all that. This album wormed its way into my mind over time. When I came back to it I liked it very much, and it has grown on me even more.

This is a finely crafted album that is equal parts pop and world without committing too strongly to either, with a dash of folk and just enough electronica thump to give it punch in all the right places. There are lots of melodic hooks that you will find yourself humming hours later and the rhythms, though somewhat subdued, really groove. At least when you blast it really loud like I like to do. The production values of the recording are top notch; self-effacing enough to ably meld all the textures without overwhelming the music itself in fancy tricks. The ensemble arrangements have an illusion of sparseness, but when I really listen closely there is always some sort of activity, although not so dense as to distract from the main attraction, Eivør’s ethereal vocals. Her voice soars above the mix, varying among a number of approaches, sometimes waifish enough to recall Kate Bush, sometimes with an emotive fuzziness around the edges, occasionally with a purity of tone worthy almost of Joan Baez. At times she descends into the lower reaches of her range with surprising strength (particularly in the song “Bridges”) and once or twice she executes a rough edged banshee wail (“On My Way To Somewhere”) but those are mixed far enough back so they don’t overwhelm or otherwise challenge the listener too harshly. I love the combination of sounds in the refrain of the title track: Eivør  at her vocal deepest, but at the same time managing a stratospheric, birdlike, wordless coo. On the song “Tides” the lyrics conjure the old story of the selkie, and at one point Eivør ‘s vocal delivery assumes the quality of a pagan chant, while the rhythm section is grooving nicely. “Morning Song” is excellent — though I’m wanting there to be more lyrics here — and Eivør displays the rawest emotion of the entire album on this track.

One quality of this production that is both a strength and a weakness: restraint. The album never descends into cheesy overplay, nor does it reach beyond it’s ability to deliver. On the other hand, my one complaint is that I rarely get the feeling that Eivør , the musicians, even the engineers are entirely emotionally involved. That is, however, a minor complaint, and should be taken in the context of all the other praise I lavish. Don’t get me wrong. I really love this album.

Bridges makes me want to do two mutually exclusive things when I listen to it: one is to put on headphones, turn out the lights, and float away with Eivør ‘s voice and the “darkest thoughts in my head”. On the other hand, if I blast it on the stereo it’s great motivational music for doing chores around the house! Use it however you like, I’m sure Eivør  won’t mind. Just be sure to buy it!

Standout tracks: “Morning Song”, “The Swing”, “On My Way To Somewhere”, “Tides”, “Bridges”, “Remember Me”, uh, the whole album I guess…

Michael Mullen is best known as a leading Celtic Rock fiddler, thanks to his multi-year tenure in the band Tempest. With the debut of his solo act, Michael Mullen’s Trio Of One – looped jigs and reels and rocking acoustic folk that brought a uniquely Celtic twist to the term one-man-band – he dipped his toes into live looping as an interesting performance approach. Now with the unveiling of his new solo act, Michael Mullen’s TriaSoli – featuring folk violin pieces from many times and sundry cultures that weave a tapestry of sound fusing the ancient Celtic traditions with Early Music, Baroque, and musical textures from various other parts of the world – he is breaking new ground as an innovator within the rapidly expanding Live Looping genre. No longer “just the fiddle player,” Michael is an interpreter of song, and has expanded his musical reach “beyond the bow” to include high-energy acoustic guitar, and elegant octave mandolin. As a fiddler and singer Michael draws his influences from many sources, but he is still best known as a purveyor of fine Scottish and Irish songs and fiddle tunes.

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