The Day Has Again Bruised Me (Independent)
Mesmerising. Utterly mesmerising.
Hannah McKittrick doesn’t ask you to lean in for this album, she leaves you no choice as it hovers just out of reach, just on the edge of your hearing, just on the line between translucent and transparent.
Her voice mostly comes to you from the other side of a paper screen: held close and released reluctantly, never with force to rip the fabric when insinuating itself through can be done instead. That voice is clear rather than distorted, but yet not wholly defined either, so that even as the words are discernible, their intentions feel cloaked.
It takes to the last song for McKittrick to sound unambiguous in her emotion, Perfect Struggler letting anger rise like steam from a hot, wet footpath. Up until then, the confluence of feelings play in, play against, and sometimes play with language that is more than useful but nonetheless secondary to the impression made on you by the voice and the air around it.
The sounds accompanying that voice come from instruments through which air seems to huff as much as flow, conversational as much as delicate, and pianos which are caressed. When there are distortions on stringed instruments they stretch out in echo and reverberation to points that remain forever on the horizon; when they are unadorned, they are tantalisingly vulnerable and seemingly played centimetres from your skin.
And yet when drums, or at least sounds of rhythm instruments, bubble up they feel treated and deliberately removed from flesh and blood interactions. Their “unnaturalness”, their airy mechanisms and imperviousness, serve as the contrast that in the end actually emphasises and enhances the very human elements.
That very humanity plays out through the lyrics which even though I said appear cloaked in their intentions, tell compelling and direct stories, and stories within stories. Here are relationships caught between restoration and dissolution, laced with disputed histories whose origins are unspoken but clearly marked. We can feel their emotional shapes – “I feel too much to be here with you/I am soaking everything in” – it’s where we stand in them that’s the issue up for exploration.
“Shut all doors, slam window panes/Let not in the light to taunt you,” McKittrick sings in Shadows. “No summer breeze to squeeze a sunniness out of pools that run dry.” Is there room for forgiveness in what appears to be a family tale rooted in two or three dozen summers? Or is it time to move on? What would it mean to choose either?
“My calf calibrating to your shin/Set off to try and belong again/Where hours do not equate to time,” she offers in Shells. “You’re stretching the lead out of my veins/At night I still hurtle through space/Stopped only by your body curled into mine.” This sounds almost divine, certainly ideal, but there’s enough ambiguity in the need, the pressing, almost claustrophobic need, to leave room for doubt.
It is only seven songs but hearing this album in daylight closes in the space around you, progressively shutting off the external stimuli and bringing everything within it/within you alive. Listening to it at night let’s that space stretch out luxuriously, almost sensuously, but also dangerously unformed and open.
Choose your path, but the end is the same: mesmerising.
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