Saturday, 7 October 2017

Album: Laura Ryder - Vestigial

Laura Ryder - Vestigial
Photo: Hannah Bloom

Info: Dublin alternative folk artist Laura Ryder released her debut album Vestigial yesterday with a launch night in The Bello Bar. The LP follows on from her very well received debut EP haiku which was released at the beginning of last year.

The first thing that you notice on Vestigial (which, quite sadly!, is the forming of a small remnant of something that was once more noticeable) is that Ryder transfers her engaging and highly entertaining live persona to record with ease, whilst also ensuring the more serious themes which she traverses are given appropriate respect. First track 'Changed' starts with a vocal solo, and the words connect with the album's title; "Now that I'm changed, and I'm nothing, I'm nothing but bringing you down, I'm nothing but causing an unyielding frown in this freedom, so bitter too taste, burnt on like a molten crown...", a cutting set of lines which will soften the hardest heart.

On 'Kerbs' that solemn mood continues, if a little less exposed by her full band entering the fray. Her piano playing is delightful as it twinkles sharply between sudden percussion drops and jazz-fuelled harmonies. Suddenly 'Moon' bursts everything open, releasing a scatter-gun of unbridled happiness, the instrumental arrangements all across the board here are wondrous and reach a peak with the playful high-key piano progression solo which fully crashes home at the track's finale.

What's not to love about 'No Romantics', I was unable to shake how much this felt like a lost Mic Christopher song from Skylarkin', it's a highly impressive moment on the album and finds Ryder's bubbling piano-playing at its most care-free and uplifting. Even before you've reached the album's title-track, you are struck by the fine line of what I've borrowed from the title of an old Gemma Hayes song from time to time, that trapeze like balance between delivering a happy-sad feeling to the listener. Ryder traverses that line with great care but so well, and it really comes home to roost on 'Vestigial', should I feel this sad listening to her music? I'm not sure, but I'm glad that I do.

'Chalk', like the opening track, again opens in a stripped-down manner before being embellished with a Bond-theme dripping of sharp keys and soulful harmonies. Unexpectedly 'Soda Pressing' immediately reminds me of something you might find on The Frames' Setlist, I'm just waiting for Glen to come in with a whisper over the strings and piano. The song then gallops off into a carnival atmosphere at its half-way point before coming back down, toying with our musical feelings, and with one last throw of the dice it catapults off into the ether, like a rocket headed to a cartoon Moon. 

'Siren Song' is a risky addition that I feel pays off, a live recording with Ryder accompanied by her guitar as the city passes by in the background, there is something quintessentially Irish about this song, as though she is taking a moment to salute a traditional form of musical performance from the past. The album closes with 'Sea Legs', wrought with vulnerability initially, Ryder once again explodes out from the blocks from nowhere and see-saws rapidly between high and low moments, it's a fitting end which leaves an overriding feeling of positivity in the face of adversity.

Vestigial reminded me of why I loved haiku so much, and listening back to that EP from last year for this review, it really was an intro to this album in every sense. The rollercoaster of emotions, the shifts between sombre and joy, the innate ability of Ryder to deliver songs that resonate with a sharp impact, and ultimately, an artist who you sense has her mind constantly occupied by the birth of new songs and sounds, the results of which we benefit from greatly.

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