Pefkin - MurmurationsPefkin is the solo project of Gayle Brogan, one-half of the psych-pop duo Electroscope. While Electroscope lean towards more psychedelic analogue electronics, Pefkin allows Brogan to spread her wings into more folk-tinged drone based material. Birds figured heavily in Pefkin's previous albums Inner Circle Outer Circle and Liminal Rites and Murmurations continues that fascination to the extent that each song is titled after a species of bird. Pefkin can be characterised by their enchanting combination of folksong, strings and drone. Drones and electronics flutter around the stark and brittle strings, carried by Brogan's hushed utterings. On Murmurations Gayle Brogan is joined by guest artists including Alan Davidson on clarinet and bowed bass, Tom Dalzell on electronics and of course John Cavanagh on clarinet and analogue synthesizers. These collaborations extend the sound palette somewhat but the songs remain deeply introspective bathed in a hazy melancholy giving Brogan space to ruminate on birds, nature, wildlife and landscape.
Released by the Belgian label Morc Records on vinyl, side 1 comprises collaborations with Alan Davidson of Kitchen Cynics on 'Redshanks' while 'Phalaropes' brings Brogan back together with Phosphene's John Cavanagh, who of course is her partner in Electroscope. 'Redshanks' is a fragile concoction of delayed guitars and faint electronic oscillations. It drifts unhurried, unfurling like a coastal breeze, carried by Brogan's soft murmurs. Echoes of electronics ebb and flow amidst clarinet melody billowing freely over a soft folk tinged jangle. The combination of Brogan's breathy tones with the brittle free-form arrangement is captivating.
Brogan is also one-half of Electroscope, a musical project she shares with John Cavanagh and that groups love of analogue and vintage synths seep into 'Phalaropes'. Over pumping organ drone Brogan's brittle vocals and harmonic tones sing of the seasons. The music is loosely improvised and lo-fi couched in pipe-like drones and doleful clarinet surrounding her hushed tones. Unfolding slowly, as all Pefkin songs do, it adds oscillation whirs and windswept atmospherics to the tranquil layer of folk song. The last moments are subject to textured needle static as the voice continues to weave its magic. John Cavanagh has been a regular collaborator to Pefkin and just as the psych free-folk drones of 'Hallucigenia' from Liminal Rites took its influence from Electroscope so too does 'Phalaropes', and I mean that as a point of reference rather than as a criticism.
Flip it over and there are another three tracks once again all titled after birds common to the mainland and islands of Scotland. The drone based 'Swallows' crosses into darker terrain than Pefkin usually inhabit. Brogan's layered spectral wail wafts over the undulating buzz drone which provides the undertow here. Speckled with soft pummels and electro claps, this collaboration with electronic noise outfit Jazzhandstemazepamman even allows Pefkin to absorb some harsher elements that surface and pierce the ghostly wavering electronics. This inclusion of noise and beats is a neat move bringing forth a new dimension to Pefkin's atmospheric sound excursions.
With the solemn organ chords of 'Jackdaws' Pefkin return to more familiar folk based sounds. Brogan's singing here is most reminiscent of folk song, as she recites poetry from Charlie Gracie, whose poem this track is based on received nominations for several awards. Adorned by passages of pipe drone and organ chime, it evokes the rugged mountains where jackdaws are familiar. Towards the end Brogan switches from a folk song timbre to distant treated spoken word as the organ chords merge with glistening tonal electronics.
"Starlings are born with a map of the stars in their heads" Brogan coos in soft almost hesitant tones over the sombre lulling piano chords augmented with the slightest of sound treatments on the final track. The stark arrangement captures the alluring intimacy of Pefkin. It seems Pefkin's approach is to strip down folk song and to reimagine it, rendering it in hushed and layered vocals over a free-form combination of drones, electronics, pipes and clarinet. Murmurations like the previous albums I've heard from Pefkin is beguiling and enchanting; their quiet mystical intimacy a joy to behold. Immersive and enchanting, Murmurations is well worth tracking down as it is released on vinyl in a short-run of 125 copies. For more information go to Morc Records or Pefkin's Bandcamp page