ALBUM REVIEW: HEMLOCK – TALK SOON

talk soon is new album from Louisiana-born musician Carolina Chauffe, aka hemlock, and it’s a beautiful, warm, lo-fi-folk conundrum that’s both fragile and strong, dreamlike and yet utterly human. Like so many artists in the last few years it was a project born out of tour cancellations and a sudden standstill which, for Carolina, was in the small Oregon town of Astoria where they recorded in friend Olaf’s house on the hill. Olaf Ydstie was one of a number of friends and family involved in the project and I think it’s one of the reasons the album is imbued with so much warmth.

One of the great things about this album is the beauty of its ‘perfect imperfection’. Sounds of the house are incorporated into tracks, from the creak of a floorboard, the boiling of a kettle or tape rolling chatter, and you get a sense that the surroundings are part of the personality of the album and that sense of ‘home’ is something Carolina wanted to explore. It can be a place, something you carry with you, or the idea of your family as ‘home’. The album is interspersed with voice messages (titled as ‘interludes’) from family (mainly Mum and ‘Pawpaw’) and, at first, I thought these would grate over repeated listening but far from it. I found them comforting and familiar despite being from someone else’s family. I particularly enjoyed Carolina’s friend Merle talking about the symbolism of dead birds in a friend’s film and the line “Dad wants to know how your tyres are”. That wonderful mix of the surreal and the mundane, as life often is.

The songs are subtle and intoxicating, and even the use of lowercase for artist name and song titles gives the impression of not wanting to be too obtrusive but invite you to have to lean into the songs so they can whisper their secrets to you. They can be 3am woozy, halfway between being awake and asleep, or as enchantingly soporific as a lazy Sunday afternoon. The voice is often doubled but split across the left and right channels so there are moments, such as on the title track ‘talk soon’, where one side suddenly takes the harmony, and it creates a wonderfully dizzying sensation.

Each track has something subtle and beautiful to keep giving the listener little dopamine hits. ‘autumn’ has subtle body percussion and a page from a book being turned in time to the music, there’s the sigh at the beginning of ‘green’, the soaring harmonies over slide guitar in the title track, the birdsong outside on ‘songbird’, ‘nesting blues’ with its rolling earnestness and plaintive upright bass playing from Lindsey Verrill, the intimacy of ‘ana’, with its low of pulse of soft beaters on drums and vocals that often threaten to break or disappear from the track, the aching feel of piano, voice and windchimes on ‘through sometimes’, and the wonderful bossa feel of ‘silver city embers’.

There is so much to recommend this album and whenever I have tried to just dip into a couple of tracks, I always end up listening to the while thing. It’s replete with humanity and resonated with me deeply from the first listen. I know I’ll keep coming back to listen to it because it feels like ‘home’, and if home is where the heart is then my heart definitely belongs to this album.

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Review by Paul F Cook

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