Elaine Howley previously featured on Touch Sensitive`s Wacker That compilation. A whirlwind selection from Ireland`s musical underground, put together to celebrate the label`s 5th birthday. Here, on The Distance Between Heart And Mouth, Howley makes her solo debut.
Based, built, around a 4-track cassette audio diary, that Elaine kept between 2019 and 2022, the album is a varied collection of influences and inspirations. Tapping into the artist`s then day-to-day adult concerns, and childhood / teenage memories. Elaine has a decade-long background performing in a range of groups / bands, from Crevice, to The Altered Hours, where she`s travelled, genre-wise, back and forth between switched-on soul and shoegaze – both of which are touched on for her own release. For example, I previously described the woozy, ethereal, decidedly unusual, Song For Mary Black as “a folk standard deconstructed, stretched, squeezed, and made to fit a 21st Century R&B template”, while the opening track, Silent Talk, is consumed by clouds of Cocteau Twins-esque reverb and delay. In terms of its varied nature, the record is, perhaps, most like Elaine’s output with Morning Veils, which encompasses both indie guitar balladry and synthesized ambience.
Loops of fractured field recordings, and samples from dusty old vinyl, sometimes spun backwards, are mixed with fizzing, glitched electronics, gamelan bowls, bells, and finger cymbals, to construct an avant art pop, and in places fashion some funk. Subliminal snatches of contrabass and jazz horn are used to fine head-nodding effect. Check the terrific To The Test.
Vocals are stuttered, staccato, whispered, breathless deliveries of highly personal poetry and prose. Often, as on See Saw Seen, extravagantly echoed, and accompanied by everything from sliced and diced orchestral strings, and twisting techno tones, to washes, waves, of heavenly Hawaiian slide-like harmonics and psychedelic organ drones.
Drums dance through racing electro rhythms, slow, spacey, hypnotic house, and a tumbling tribal timpani. On the closing SoSo, dubwise rimshots ring out above a classic post-punk bass-line, recalling post-invisible Girls Pauline Murray, Pink Industry, and especially Earthbeat-era Slits. Howley`s haunting overdubs reaching for a fragile Jane And Barton It`s A Fine Day falsetto.
Elaine Howley`s The Distance Between Heart And Mouth will be released on August 12th, care of Touch Sensitive Records.