Chapter 1 is the debut album from Emma Gatrill, a multi-talented member of Brighton’s legendary Willkommen Collective. Have a listen to a cut from the album above and the whole album here, then see if you agree with our panel below….. Thoughts on twitter to @forfolkssake and @NicoFranks please! You can also read an introduction to Emma Gatrill on For Folk’s Sake here.
Charlotte Krol: Within moments of listening, it’s clear that Gatrill is substituting the traditional folk guitar for the harp and it’s to no detrimental effect. ‘Hold On’ allows the harp strings to flutter around her soft soprano vocals like a gently strum acoustic with a deeper mystique. It’s enjoyable to hear something different in a landscape where countless twee singer-songwriters have guitars glued to their fingertips.
Gatrill’s voice is as equally captivating as her instrument of choice. Her quivering vocal always feels as if it’s just about to break; thawing at the higher notes in ‘Twisted Threads’ or cooing unpredictably in ‘Black Dog’.
Towards the end of the album lies ‘Soul Lovers’ with its sickly-sweet lyrics but charming musical texture and melody. Grave strings add depth to the airy, alternating harp rhythms and Gatrill litters the song with erratic notes that are strangely pleasant to listen to. She allows the music to run in a stream of consciousness like a poet’s mind to paper, and this musical freedom is inspiring and truly demonstrates Gatrill’s creative talent overall. A sterling debut effort.
Read Charlotte’s full review here.
Carly Rockett: Emma Gatrill has a reputation for playing with some of folk’s elite, including Laura Marling and Racheal Dadd, while also being a member of experimental folk band Sons of Noel and Adrian.
Full of Gatrill’s delicate harp playing, her debut album has a dreamy feel to it. ‘Twisted Threads’ is one track that swirls around you, while Gatrill’s sweet vocals soar amongst harp and violin.
There is a vulnerability to her voice, its slight tremble adding emotion to her lyrics, as in ‘The Birds’, where she softly trills “I’m in love with a man whose wild heart runs free / I’m in love with a man who doesn’t love me”. The sparse accompaniment of harp really adds a depth to the track, letting her voice takeover.
This album has put Gatrill forward as a strong artist in her own right, featuring a captivating set of songs and the use of the harp- not usually featured as a main accompaniment- which is sure to make her stand out from the crowd. Chapter 1 fits in with the current fascination with fairytale, dreamy folk, and will hopefully see Gatrill’s solo career flourish.
Greg Loades: “Close your eyes / rest a while”, Emma Gatrill seductively whispers on ‘The Birds’, the fourth track of her debut album Chapter One. And I don’t mind if I do because this harp-driven songbird folk makes the perfect soundtrack to a session of battery recharging.
Gatrill’s voice displays an endearing Vashti Bunyan-style shrill vulnerability and it’s perfectly blended with dreamy harp throughout most of the album. Her fragile, at times quivering, vocals lack nothing in raw wistful emotion and they seem to get eerier and more haunting as the album goes on.
Backed by a slightly more run-of-the-mill acoustic guitar on penultimate track ‘Squiggles and Balloons’, Gatrill shows that she doesn’t need a quirky accompaniment to stand out from the crowd. Alongside some simple, steady strumming, she shows how pure and atmospheric her vocals are in their own right, as a well-trodden musical path is taken to beautiful levels.
On ‘Soul Lover’ Gatrill sings “You illustrated right and wrong / you are my silence / you are my song” with a heartfelt choral beauty that has ‘cathedral-filler’ written all over it. Emma Gatrill… coming to a dreaming spire near you very soon.
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