Faith Eliott – Impossible Bodies (4 stars)

Faith Eliott – Impossible Bodies

Striking and mature-sounding work from the Minneapolis-raised, Glasgow-based artist

Of all those artists left 'homeless' by the unwelcome but sadly necessary demise of Edinburgh's cottage industry Song, By Toad label, Faith Eliott has been best-placed to recover and get on with releasing their own music through OK Pal Records, the label which the Minneapolis-raised, Glasgow-based artist has established with fellow songwriter Hailey Beavis. Their debut album Impossible Bodies is a striking and mature-sounding work, a reserved selection of taught, atmospheric DIY rock which moves with grace, but conserves great power just below the surface.

There is a loose concept running throughout, a consideration of human physicality through the recurring motif of animals in Eliott's lyrics; the beauty of tropical fish, 'propelled by unknowable forces in their mercurial hearts', amid the mundane, sterile surroundings of an aquarium over just the glistening electric guitar picking of 'Grouper'; 'Laika', the first dog in space, contemplating the stars with no more knowledge of the extent of the universe than any human making the same trip; 'Jungftak', which references in its title a fictitious reference in Webster's Dictionary to an imaginary bird whose male has only one wing on the right side and the female only one on the left.

There are clear parallels with and allusions to questions of gender, identity and normative beauty here, and of what might be considered 'normal' when the natural world and the imagination contain endless avenues of possibility. Yet even deeper and most widely relatable to all – and where the greatest strength of Eliott's beautiful, resonant music emerges – is in the way it passes beyond a view of the physical to touch on something spiritual and open to all, a striving for a sense of connection and belonging in ourselves to which anyone must surely relate.

'I guess it helps a little bit to put things in perspective / and think about how the universe is so complex and infinite,' they sing softly on the self-explanatory 'Carl Sagan Cosmos Song', 'so when I'm overwhelmed or too absorbed by my own ego / I'll remember that the world is over four billion years old.' The music is so simple as to sound bedroom-recorded, just a softly rising guitar strum (there are shades of Moldy Peaches, perhaps), but there's a virtuosic precision in Eliott's ability to ride crests of deep emotional waves with such simple tools, building to a crescendo with 'Black Rabbit's carefree rejection of being hung-up on mortality. Such understated power ripples throughout this record.

Impossible Bodies is out now on OK Pal Records.

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