There are, songwriters which never confirm their first promising steps and just run onto a sandbank, and are, finally, more or less, quickly forgotten as false alarms.
But usually, many of them exchange, at least, a part of their charm and innocence for a more produced, more traditionally composed full length. While the initial effect might be diluted, it's still easy to go on as a listener.
A few ones are following different pathways, and expand their journey following their own underground streams, while in parallel, they start the process of refining their expression, revealing and unfolding, becoming more confident about their sensitivity, discovering themselves, taking real risks, and in fact, making errors on certain aspects, while confirming their talent on a few others.
Brooke Manning belongs to this last category. Her first EP from 2009 has been a huge revelation for me.
When I become informed of the track-list of her debut album a few weeks ago, I was doubtful, noticing she had reworked three songs from her EP. Mainly, the perspective of a new version of "Between Fires" was worrying me as the demo version was so powerfully sensitive and fragile that it seemed an impossible task to keep this intact.
But only thirty seconds through the new rendition of "Between Fires" and I was already propelled in another dimension. This newly irrigated new version is simply blooming. Like spring, like snowdrops at the end of winter. Even more emotional and vibrant, showing melancholic cracks with an unexpected precision and clarity. And with her own special shivering warmth. It's a major pole of attraction of "Epyllion"; 4 min 41 seconds of slowcore bliss. A song you'll keep through years as an oasis where you'll return periodically. The melancholic and poetic dimension creates a high standard for the rest of the album.
But there is something even stronger and unexpected, a new song where she manages to surpass herself: "Wholesome". It's a really strange object, sounding like an hypothetical early song by Low with Lisa Germano assuring the vocals, or something like the meeting between Julie Doiron and Codeine. It is like walking during a snowstorm with icy needles slapping your face. Deeply dark and desperate, slow and contemplative, desperate and glowing, "Wholesome" is a gem, and you feel like standing in front of an abyss, strangely relieved, the balance between the slow and monotonous music and her front line lyrics is strangely efficient.
These two strong compositions set a very high standard which creates obvious difficulties for the rest of the album.
After a few spins, a third song finally emerges and joins the two others for a successful triumvirate: "It's love", somewhere between Jane Siberry and Sun Kil Moon. Another very strange and disturbing object, able to bring you close to tears, capturing the ambiance of the first rays of sun during the best summer days, between dew, greenery and the purest, most beautiful melancholy.
In each of these three songs the atmosphere created by the instruments interacts slowly with the vocal presence of Brooke Manning, accentuating the melancholic dimension as a nicely warm and depressive aura blanket covering your hair and shoulders. These are tiny huge miracles.
Three songs on eight, and with their total length, 40% of "Epyllion", I just wish all of the album was reachibg this level. But three intimate slowcore gems on a debut album, it's enough to open a road for many more to come.