I was immediately taken in by the enchanting Celtic Folklore element running through Lisa Hannigan’s ‘At Swim’. Before you know it, you find yourself on a journey that you have no intention to return from and therein remain in a world altogether far removed from here.
‘At Swim’ gently reminds you of the fragility of life; reaffirming the beauty and the poetry that can be found in the simplest of things. Each song is framed in a way that is effectual and sensitive to the natural elements and movements of the tides, transpiring skies of mist, uncloaking the sun that soon fades to welcome a painting of stars. The quaint notes gently dance their way into your world inviting you to feel a closer connection with nature, the sea and it’s serenity.
As soon as the record begins, a sense of calm fills the air, reaching the most evocative on the last track: ‘Barton’. There is a very sensual element about this closing track; you can feel the fresh wild gorse underfoot, and smell the peat burning nearby as you reach the edge of the cliff: “You can see for miles and miles” and can taste the Irish sea breeze as it brushes your face. The echoed vocals and eerie piano chords that see the record out remain about you long after, mirroring the haunting, distant calling of the A-Side finale: ‘Ora’: “Won’t you come with me…won’t you.”
Hannigan’s vocals that range from husky depths to light and delicate heights are often self-harmonised and are always in accompaniment of sparse arrangements. Ethereal and darkly poetic throughout, featuring a fitting three-part a cappella of a poem (practically passable as Hannigan’s own) from the late Seamus Heaney: ‘Anahorish’.
Distinctly Irish in its innate wisdom and imagery expressed through the economy of language, mirroring that of the late Seamus Heaney and W.B Yeats. Simple lines navigate their way into your conscience with connotations of loss and bereavement within lyricism on the record’s most moving track: ‘Funeral Suit’ : “We advance in tender increments, between the past and future tense, test the weight of both.”
Thematically, the infatuation with the ocean is not least timeless, romantically, but also in its resonance with the mind’s sense of calm and clarity. Perhaps it is this attachment to the sea that aligns me in greater symmetry with the record; the lapping waves lulling as though Innisfree “I hear it in the deep heart’s core” (Yeats) and the increasing desire to be closer to the water, and essentially, Ireland; “I’m going home…won’t you come with me?”…Suffice to say, this album is a treasure that deserves your discovery.
Writer: Rachael Crabtree: @eccentric_eejit