Mairearad Green – Summer Isles (4 stars)

Mairearad Green – Summer Isles

Cast of collaborators including King Creosote and Mike Vass on this evocative folk album

Like the island life it soundtracks and circumscribes, Mairearad Green's new long-player is windswept, escapist and picturesque. Green grew up on Scotland's Coigach Peninsula, and Summer Isles sees the singer-songwriter and composer explore her native topography – the land, the sea, the fluctuating in-between – with gorgeous accompaniment from King Creosote, Mike Vass and Annie Grace (among others) along the way.

Opening salutation, 'Island Folk', alludes to the record's sense of geography, community and (song)craft, and its music follows suit: a glorious burl across deep-rooted melodies and skirling beats that feels at once familiar and fresh.

It's followed up by the celestial drive-pop of 'Star of Hope', delivered in King Creosote's unmistakable tones. And if lines like 'floating on the diamond silver sea' evoke his own coastal love-letter, Diamond Mine, then that record's minimalist aesthetic makes its presence felt elsewhere on Summer Isles – not least on exquisite centrepiece 'Tanera Talisman', whose haunting, sparse arrangements echo the once-inhabited tiny island's monuments and memories ('a glint of bleached bone'). It's a hymn to the sea's propensity for remembering, and forgetting, things; for claiming them and – sometimes – giving them back.

The songs on Summer Isles resonate with each other, and weave an understated ecosystem of nature, music and myth: the 'Red Throated Divers', who first soar into view in an elemental piano psalm (come Gallic squeezebox wig-out), later touch down on 'Tanera Talisman'.

The barren, melancholy tracks – 'Stone and Struggle' is another such highlight – are especially lovely, and if Green's voice is largely absent from the Sufjan Stevens-invoking swansong (performed by Hector McInnes), then perhaps that's fitting for an album that considers identity on the outside of things (the mainland) and in the middle of them (the water). Its final words are warm and apt: 'Home to me is this island'. There's no place like it.

Out Fri 26 Feb, on Buie Records.

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