Album | Oisin Leech – Cold Sea

Magic is a funny thing. When it occurs there’s no stopping it, and Oisin Leech’s Cold Sea is a product of magic. The stars aligned. There’s really no other way to explain it. A pause in the world forced Lost Brothers off the road. A return to Buncrana by the sea led to the songs. One was sent to Steve Gunn who immediately responded, “I’m in.” Then Oisin suggested they rent a cottage in Donegal, hire gear and make it a road trip. Gunn was more enthused because his great grandmother was from Downings in Donegal.

The magic continued with the majority of the album being recorded over the course of four days. Singing and playing live, Leech would eventually put the guitar down and then he and Gunn would jam with synths and break out the electric. Meeting up with Tony Garnier the bass was put down. After M Ward heard “October Sun,” he loved it so much he sent out a guitar part from Portland that ended up on the record. Leech’s mentor, Dónal Lunny added bouzouki to a number of songs. 

Yet what really makes Cold Sea special is the deft, gentle touch Leech and Gunn use. The songs resemble the cover painting by Sinéad Smyth, where the sky seems charged, yet the sea is remarkably calm. Songs like ‘October Sun’ expose this dichotomy, “I was rolling home, adrift and alone/Late for the day like a skimming stone.” Despite the lyric, there is a sense of being at home with the moment that keeps things in check. Similarly, a line like, “The water’s carpentry it cut open the sea” casts a spell that the guitar, bass, and strings settle in on ‘The Colour of the Rain’.

The instrumental ‘Maritime Radio’ intrigues with its blend of guitar, synthesizer and a weather forecast down low in the mix. Even more beguiling, ‘Cold Sea’ melds guitar and electronics to mesmerising effect. The way elements are combined gets to the heart of the album, it casts a shimmer that may seem decidedly out of fashion in today’s modern world, yet it is the kind of respite from the brash and bold sounds that so often come out of our speakers. In a sense it is perhaps simply beyond fashion, residing in a place all its own. 

Over the space of just under half an hour, Oisin Leech finds the key to creating music that fascinates without resorting to tricks. Open, honest music like Cold Sea never goes out of style, especially when it is leavened with a dose of magic.