In keeping with its title, Jo Whitby – aka Laurence Made Me Cry – kept an online diary of the recording of this debut album in which she at one point noted: “As each track nears finalisation, I’m beginning to realise that I am less and less ‘folk’.” Welcome aboard anyway, Jo – it’s good to have you with us.
It is easy to see that process at work, with a simple guitar or piano starting point to most songs before one of Whitby’s cast of collaborators come to the party with additional instruments and occasional electronic beats and spoken-word vocals.
First single ‘Between Destinations’ is a prime example. Recounting a rail trip with “headphones on – two journeys in one”, it shimmers along pleasantly with Whitby musing “Is it only me that wonders, through the window, just how magical the world can be?”, while Ash “Fulco” Cooke provides backing synths as well as the exaggerated voice of the train guard on the journey to Bristolian Whitby’s adopted home town of Cardiff.
Oddly, it is directly followed by ‘This Evening’, set on a night bus and an entirely spoken-word piece – as is Remedy, a poem backed effectively by James “Alone” Reichelt’s electronica and Cathy Fowles’ abrasive strings, Whitby appropriately stating “I am the story-teller”.
The album opens with ‘All That Patience Brings’, its twinkling loveliness at odds with a lament for lost desire and distant dreams, while ‘Last To Know’ is a beautifully simple duet with singer-guitarist Freddie Nunez and probably the album’s stand-out moment along with ‘Paper Chains’ – “slightly morbid” by Whitby’s own admission, with co-vocalist Salwa Azar “technically a ghost by the second chorus” after a fire.
With ‘Bientôt à Moi’ sung, unsurprisingly, in French and penultimate track ‘A Channelling – Northern Lights’ being two tracks bolted together, Whitby’s willingness to experiment and play around with the raw materials is a constant throughout the album, helping to elevate this from a home-made curiosity into an album of depth which rewards repeat listens.
Words: Tom White