“Sing High Sing Low” the second album from The Silver Field, is a stunning follow-up to “Rooms”. With its shimmering experimentation and hypnotizing poetry, it possesses an ethereal timelessness. Conceived by artist Coral Rose and working with loops, the album conceptually incorporates postcards and snapshots in a visionary exploration of sound. The album is out 12th June 2020 on Crossness Records.
The Demented Goddess [DG]: How has lockdown been treating you?
It’s been ok. I’ve been feeling very lucky to be able to have some time to slow down, but it has also been an anxious time. Before lockdown I was on tour, and had a very busy month getting the album finished. I was at a very low ebb, so I do feel like now my body has had time to recover, which I am thankful for.
DG: This album feels both familiar and new, just like Kate Bush’s “The Dreaming”. Tell me more about the dream-like place from which “Sing High! Sing Low!” emerged, referred to in the lyrics?
“There’s something that brought me here
It’s like a path I’ve walked before
But things are different: I feel denser”
[from “Hearth Bite”]
I love The Dreaming. I’m thrilled to hear you compare it to this record!
Writing feels like dreaming to me, when I write I feel like I’m exploring the dream-territory of my brain. It feels like the only way of writing I am interested in, I’m not someone who can sit down and think ‘I’m going to write a song about this’. I’ll sit down to write and I’ll see what comes out. I will tweak and edit, but it feels like pruning a tree or something, you know? I can shape it into something that makes sense to me, but I could never have thought up a tree to start with. I couldn’t sit down to design a tree. So I’m kind of, growing myself these dream-plants and then turning them into things.
DG: Apparently, the dreams of the human population are more vivid than ever under lockdown. It seems dreaming has become an even more important function of our minds currently. This album is what we would call in the Irish language an “Aisling”, dream-vision work of poetry. But its narrator is not curled up on a hill, but on their feet, asleep but walking. What do you feel dreams can communicate to us?
I love learning things in other languages that I don’t have the words for in English! Thank you, that’s really lovely to hear you describe it like that. Yes, it’s very much a walking album; it takes you on a journey through a landscape.
I think about the word “pastoral” a lot in relation to music. It’s the only word I can think of that for me accurately describes a kind of music that is about evoking a landscape and environment. It obviously comes with a historical context of power that still resonates in the present, which Gazelle Twin explored so well on her album Pastoral from 2018. But for me it’s interesting to think about it as a psychogeographic word: the sound of the feeling of a place. For example: Burial’s work as a kind of pastoral music of South London. I guess what I’m trying to do with my music, is a kind of dream-like pastoral, like the feeling of a dream-landscape. There is probably a better word for it in another language.
I really love that dreams throw us these weird curveballs from the depths of our minds. It’s like a weird soup where things meet that you wouldn’t normally associate with each other. The things that are most important to us get thrown in there with meaningless snippets of information from our everyday lives, places and people we know intimately get morphed into things that are both known and unknown. I don’t know if this synthesis tells us anything that is necessarily useful, but I don’t think we need to understand exactly what a dream or a dream-like image is saying. For me, the communication happens at a level where you don’t understand what is going on, but it has some effect below the surface.
DG: That psychogeographic element in your work is so interesting. I think of how every landscape has a parallel either above or beneath our own. In Celtic mythology that other world is populated by the Tuatha Dé Denann, gods and faerie-folk, but I also think it’s the same as the relationship Blake had with his environment; illuminated by vision from other worlds. Are there locations in which you feel these worlds are closer together?
For me it’s not so much locations but being in a state of mind, I think sometimes the idea that there are ‘special places’ can create and play into unnecessary hierarchies. One thing I love about Blake is often he was having these visions just at home in Lambeth. I do think there are places that feel more poetic or graceful though, and that it’s easier to feel close to something else. For me it’s a feeling of being released from the present and its restrictions, and being able to think about other possibilities – or impossibilities.
DG: Sing High! Sing Low! has been released to the world during a time when the conditions for the music profession have changed inconceivably. How has it been working on and releasing an album during this time?
Well, the music side of things was finished and sent off to mastering before all this began, which was lucky. I had the great pleasure of mixing with my friend Hannes Plattmeier, who did a fantastic job in helping me realise this album in the most clear and vivid way. Katie Tavini put the finishing touches on it with the final masters, which sound amazing. I couldn’t be happier with how it has come together.
I’ve found it really difficult though to reach out into the world with it via social media in this time of feeling disconnected from everyone. I much prefer connecting people with it in person. I was really looking forward to a summer of touring it and playing festivals, which is now obviously very unlikely to be going ahead. We’re hoping to be able to do some shows in September, but we’ll have to see what the situation is like.
DG: I can only imagine what it would be like to not be able to share the music in the most natural and immediate way. Once it is possible for live music to be reborn, what kind of experience do you hope to create through performing the album live?
The response we’ve been getting at shows on the last tour has been really positive. The songs seem to have this hypnotic effect on people. We opened for Richard Dawson in November at MOTH club in Hackney, and I thought it might be a difficult gig just because of a big crowd that maybe didn’t know us, but we seemed to mesmerise people. To go back to the dream thing, I think because the songs come from that half-awake state, that maybe it gets induced in people in a live context.
I’m also hoping to include more room for improvisation in the live shows. I’m very lucky to work with Kiran Bhatt who is an incredible drummer, and we’ve been talking about doing some more experimental things with tape loops & rhythm as part of the set.
DG: That looping, ethereal style makes the album vividly visual. The sound of The Song of Wandering, looks in my mind’s eye like the sun flickering on the surface of water, seen from underneath. It has the effect of complete immersion. The lines “The silver apples of the moon / the golden apples of the sun” are illuminated so brilliantly in sound. Why was it important to adapt Yeats’ mythical vision as a part of your own vision?
It’s very visual to me too, and I’ve found the idea of making music videos for any of the songs really difficult because of that. They already have such a strong imagery for me which I think is a real challenge to compliment with actual visual imagery.
Something about Yeats’ Song of Wandering Aengus just stuck with me. A friend played it to me years ago, and we worked on a version together which never really got realised but I kept singing it, making a few small alterations in the process, and eventually it became part of this album. It just felt like it was at home here among these other songs of wandering. It’s about looking for something. It’s about chance. It’s about transformation and hope and yearning, and I think these are themes which run through the record.
DG: “Talk to Me” has a caressing and intimate quality, reminiscent of Arthur Russell. What kind of relationships with your environment, or with people, have informed the unique tone of the work you have produced?
This may be a little cheesy but I think the relationship that has informed the record most is my relationship with myself. It is an album that has come out of setting out on a journey of attempting to know and love myself, which is a journey I am definitely still on! I had a vision of this album almost being like postcards, sent from along the way – a theme which I will hopefully be continuing and expanding into on the next album. Maybe I’ll be sending letters!
DG: Not cheesy at all! It is also a perfect time to become a Woman Of Letters.
Caoimhe Lavelle was talking to Coral Rose of The Silver Field. Sing High Sing Low is out on Crossness Records, 12th June.
All images by Poppy Marriott.
Follow Caoimhe on Twitter @kwoovo, Silver Field @thesilverfield.