‘I’m drawn to the patterns around us and the cycles in life that will keep on evolving and transforming forever.‘
As someone who was forever joyously infected within childhood by soundtrack music – predominantly via the Italian maestro, Ennio Morricone – and, as one who briefly flirted with composing in the 1990’s, I was immediately drawn into choosing this review of ‘Ecovocative’ by the Northern Irish composer, Hannah Peel. The instrumental single is taken from her forthcoming album Fir Wave, to be released on March 28th, via her own label imprint, My Own Pleasure.
Hannah’s musical curriculum vitae is certainly impressive and growing all the time. In 2019 she composed and recorded the soundtrack for Game of Thrones: The Last Watch, which earned her an Emmy nomination for ‘Outstanding Music Composition For A Documentary Series Or Special (Original Dramatic Score)’. Hannah also scored a documentary film about the ground-breaking photographer and model, Lee Miller, which aired on BBC 2 in May 2020 and she has recently been nominated for a UK Music Producers Guild Award for Soundtrack of the Year for her work on Channel 5’s, 2020 series The Deceived.
‘Ecovocative’ is a single which premiered on the Mary Hobbs show on BBC Radio 6. Its creation is founded upon a celebration of the detail in the cosmos and our attempts to make sense of it, while adapting to the increasing chaos of the world we live in.
In Hannah’s own words, ‘I’m finding it harder to express all those huge feelings in words and lyrics like I used to. Instrumental music can conjure so much more and, with this new track, I wanted to evoke those patterns in nature, celebrate the detail, the changes in light, play with primal shimmering energy, using obscure bells and the bubbling beats of electronic music’.
The single begins slowly, with an extended, airy chord and gradually introduces other sounds into the mix, before a driving, electronic drum beat and catchy bassline appears, along with a specific melody. Background layers merge deliciously with the main melody as the music builds, leading the listener into a relaxed state of consciousness, especially in the latter stages when an atmospheric, ‘angelic choir’ enters the scene, with a sound that vividly reminded me of another masterful composer, Vangelis. No singular layer of sound outshines the others and the combined blend is simply perfect. A respectul shout out is aimed in the direction of the Bristol-based mixer/engineer, Timothy James Allen (Bat For Lashes, Portishead and Anna Calvi) who has collaborated with Hannah on ‘Ecovocative’. Like a smouldering volcano, or a meteor’s fiery ash trail drawn through the Earth’s skyline, the artwork for the new single draws on Hannah’s fascination with science, nature and the role of music within that.
The overall combination has a wonderful, retro feel to it, which is very understandable as Hannah has drawn inspiration for both this single and the forthcoming album from pioneering synthesizer sounds which captivated me as a child, in particular the 1972 ‘KPM 1000 series: Electrosonic, the music of Delia Derbyshire and the Radiophonic Workshop’.
Like all great musicians, Hannah Peel’s music has drawn me in completely and I have been avidly playing her back catalogue all week. In short, the more of Hannah’s work that I hear, the more I want to hear.
Fir Wave is due for release on 26th March, pre-order on vinyl here.
Review by Kev Milsom