Séance is a perfect title for this set of seven songs as it does have the pervading sense that New Zealander Maxine Funke has the ability to communicate with other planes in these seven songs. The music is barely there being made up of little more than Funke’s voice and uneven acoustic guitar playing. Please don’t see this as a criticism, the hesitant and understated playing is a perfect complement to the breathy singing which feels like it was recorded at 2am in the morning while trying not to wake other people in the house.

The album opens with ‘Fairy Baby’ which sets the tone for what is to come; the guitar speeds up and slows down as if responding to Maxine Funke’s contemplation of what she is singing. Her voice is unadorned and without conceit and feels equally intimate and distant. On ‘Quiet Shore’ the guitar and vocal lines seem to never get a sure footing and this sense of warm sense of unease is helped by the muffled guitar loop that spins about underneath. The gently doubled vocals of ‘Lucky Penny’ float over the off-in-the-distance guitar playing and ‘Moody Relish’ has the clip-clop of a basic drum machine, a poem and rain sounds which morph into a fragile guitar line and low organ sound. ‘Anzac Day’ is “a reflective self-portrait written on Australia and New Zealand’s national day of remembrance, where a recluse protagonist hides behind an ‘Iron Curtain’”. ‘Homage’ is one of more conventional songs on the album and has the great opening line: “The bees are trapped in the piano, and that piano was set on fire” and, as with many of the lyrics on Séance, dreamy allusions abound.  The final track, ‘Goodbye’, is “written from a child’s view” with the references to branches and forests “like the ones in the Narnia wardrobe”. The track’s soft rotation does have the feel of a lullaby.

In so many ways Séance is more like the echo of a record, or something heard through a wall or half-dreamt. It could have been discovered on an old shellac 78 or a well-worn home-recorded C90 cassette found in a drawer after 20 years. It put me in mind of Tracey Thorn’s solo album A Distant Shore, or her pre-Everything But The Girl work with the Marine Girls. Séance is a lo-fi, home-recorded, dream-diary that you need to sink into and allow yourself to slip through the gaps of the ordinary. And, though it may be held together with spider’s webs and ectoplasm, I fell more in love with it after each listen. I’m not sure whether Maxine Funke is the instigator of the séance or the result of one but, either way, I am glad she has chosen to communicate with us all.

Séance is released on the ‘A Colorful Storm’ label: Bandcamp

Review by Paul F Cook

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