Áine O’Dwyer – Anything Bright or Startling (Second Language) / Music for Church Cleaners (Fort Evil Fruit)

Áine O’Dwyer is a multi-instrumentalist involved in United Bible Studies, Piano Magic, and The Cloisters, among other projects.  Here, we look at two excellent solo albums.
‘Anything Bright or Startling’ is Aine O’Dwyer’s first recording with vocals, an album of bewitching harp compositions.  Beginning with ‘Falcon/Egress’, this album instantly enchants; the thick bass notes delicately picked and scattered among soft upper-register clusters, the brief intrusion of a hazily buzzing cello adding faint gossamer whispers, her beautiful voice twisting and swooping over the complex melody.  The rest of the album continues in similarly wonderful fashion, a washing tide and tin-whistle provide a haunting interlude during ‘Boatman/Hyperbolia’; ‘Albion Awake/Lifebuoy’ rolls in a furiously unfolding tangle, haunting choral adornments providing an aching coda; ‘Silent O Moyle/Truant Crier’ climaxes in a fogbank of drone and loud plodding organ chords.  The arrangements are perfectly balanced, the intricate web of harp structures are hung with moist dew drops of piano and glockenspiel; Áine’s voice stalks the threads like a musical spider; the whole construction expanding and flexing but always keeping its shape.  This is an album that will capture your imagination for its entire duration; once entered it is only reluctantly and temporarily left.

‘Music for Church Cleaners’ is the predecessor to ‘Anything Bright or Startling’; a collection of pipe organ improvisations performed with the ambient backing of the titular cleaners, evident perhaps most clearly on ‘The Feast of Fools’ where Áine duets with a hoover.  The sound of these sad and stately improvisations mesh closely with the chatter and clank of the venue’s activity, seemingly continuing regardless.  This is not an arid airless recording, it is the sound of wonderful music played in a warm and used space.  The playing is solemn and still; full of echoing drone and soft flowing melodic lines; thick blocks of sound with small trills of whistling wobble.  A beautiful and playful album, entirely absorbing; sad and lilting melodies nestled in warm drones.  One of the highlights is the rising and falling grace of ‘In a Fugue State of Mind, Harold Camping’s Lament’, a high register white-out halfway through empties the music for a moment, the environmental sounds all that briefly remain, a child chattering; before the opening of a sorrowful section, full of long sustained humming chords, overlapping and inter-weaving. 
Áine O’Dwyer has created some magnificent music, catch her performing live at Café Oto on 7th November if you can, it’s certain to be a good night.

‘Anything Bright or Startling’ can be purchased from Second Language records here.
Acquire ‘Music for Church Cleaners’ from Bandcamp here.
Get yer tickets for Áine’s appearance at the Café Oto with Tape and Slow Listener here.

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