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Bright Face (Eastmint)

(Continuing an occasional series on albums which may have slipped by during a tumultuous few months recently.)

Eva Popov and Georgia Harvey make so much with seemingly so little.

I don’t mean the sound of this album exactly. While Bright Face opens with what feels like just a couple of voices and a high-ceilinged room with a piano – making Woke Up a kind of musical Picnic At Hanging Rock done as a two-hander – and later, Every Day finds the duo lingering over little more than tense strings and desire, it only takes the second song, Incantation, with its tambourine-on-a-stick/bass drum on a Salvo rhythmic base to show you this isn’t some pure minimalist operation.

Popov, Harvey and co-producer Nick Huggins give space for the echoey emptiness of Nobody Can See Me, which is like an excerpt from Eno’s On Land, and the prominent voice of Lay You Down, as much as they provide clarity for a punchy folk-rock turn such as Hello Lover and a mix of both space and punch in Are You Here Because You Fell (which doesn’t have a question mark. Why? Or should that be why. In any case, people punctuation serves a purpose, feel free to use it.)

It is the tonal rather than sonic palette which works within a narrow range. Bright Face is described as a concept album, based around a journey “through loneliness and sensuality”. And this is true, but there’s no flagposts for any of these emotions, no charging energy of lust or washed away sensation of temporal or spiritual emptiness.

Indeed, there are times where several stages on that journey are represented, or at least suggested within the one song, without Popov and Harvey making overt gestures of any sort.

One noticeable example is the violin and entwined voices lamentation of My Lover Turned which has a call to “take off your clothes and let the saltwater dance around you” that can’t shake off the sense it is less a lover and more a Siren proposing this.

Pitched somewhere between folk, spectral pop and a kind of adult concepts Thomas Tallis, Hello Satellite’s third album is just over 40 minutes (though it feels shorter) of engaged space and understated change. It is also rather good.

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