Sunday, 6 January 2013

Erica Nockalls - Imminent Room

Once again, something that isn’t by any stretch of the imagination a space-rock record but one that fits the overarching themes that I’ve been writing about on here since it’s a work that is eclectic, vividly imaginative, distinctive, challenging and with character – and one that I’ve been looking forward to hearing and writing about for some considerable time. Mind you, slip this disc into the player and sit back awaiting the melodically discordant opening bars of its first track, ‘Manikin’, and we could almost be thinking that we are in what this blog considers its traditional stomping ground!

Erica Nockalls, as I’m sure many followers here will know, is violinist in The Wonder Stuff (I’ve just received a copy of their new record, Oh No It’s The Wonder Stuff and will be writing about that here or elsewhere in due course), plays as a one half of the TWS ‘downtime’ acoustic duo Miles Hunt & Erica Nockalls, and performs as a session musician with many notable ensembles. She’s mostly recently – outside of TWS commitments – toured in the UK and Europe with Fink.

Imminent Room is an album that is full of personality and honesty. Its personality is that of a seeker, looking for meanings and endeavouring – successfully beyond argument – to define meaning in creativity and to express that creativity in different ways, but in ways that are distinct from the artist’s regular work and which satisfy a need to produce something that stands alone, distinctive, from other music. So I might want to, at one point for example, draw a Kate Bush comparison, or other comparisons in other places, but as a body of work this marvellous record has such a unique and heartfelt voice that it’s one of those times where to draw any analogies is disingenuous. “I’ll have my day one, one day”, Erica sings on ‘Day One, One Day’, and notes its subject as “not being able to stop”, and it means something to the listener searching for that chance to start from zero and redefine. (Erica asked on a Facebook status post the other day, “What advice would you give your younger self?” and among the replies I’d noted “Don’t get stuck in the day job” but in truth we’re all looking for another Day One no matter who we are or how satisfied with what we’ve achieved in life).

If that’s its personality, then its honesty must surely be about relationships, since it reads to me that the whole album is preoccupied with them. ‘It’s Killer, Darling’ seems to offer a juxtaposition to the notion in ‘Day One, One Day’, noting how “We’re happy in our droves, happy with our hoards”; ‘Cut Them Out’ bemoans a situation where “our relationship is radio silent”, while ‘I Am Me, This Is Now’ robustly states how “I was like this when you met me / I’ll be like this when you leave” ... are we really that immutable ... do we “dance our merry little dance and be on our way” as ‘It’s Killer, Darling’ claims? ‘Goodbye Spider’, with its subject header of ‘release’ seems to think so as well, but actually each relationship interconnects into the creativity and vision of the artist and perhaps what we’re presented with is a travelogue that explains the complexity of the individual through life experiences.

So if the lyrics are part of the complexity of this record, the same really is true of the music which switches between programmed, full-band, rock and classically-tinged compositions that have brittle and febrile textures to them that really complement and describe the emotions and frustrations that Nockalls writes about. There are guest appearances from Miles Hunt and Wayne Hussey among others but this is still properly a solo album that could only be by one specific person and couldn’t possibly be the vision of anyone else. If, as she suggests in the liner notes, was looking to place into the musical void, something that “sonically, lyrically and viscerally pleases” and that was something that she felt was missing from the colour palette of music being currently written and played, then I’d hope Erica will continue to come back to this achievement and recognise that in Imminent Room she has produced something of heart and stature, and of lasting value.

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