The Nightjar – Objects (Pear O’ Legs)
A sublime debut album of ghostly folk songs capped off with the most extraordinary vocal harmonies from this Bristol band. It’s commonplace to refer to striking vocals and in fairness nothing helps a song to stand out more than a striking voice. The Nightjar certainly have that in lead singer Mo Kirby, but they also have Sarah Ricketts on back up (and bass) and the pair combine in a way that is startling to say the least.
Look no further than the first two singles, ‘All objects will cease’ and ‘Warbrobe’. The harmonies chosen by Ricketts are at arms length from the standard seconds or thirds. They suggest a medieval or even more ancient connection, a dredging of the history of the species and the planet (there is a distinct historical feel to the album as a whole). The unexpected quality of the harmonies also underscores the slightly supernatural, post apocalyptic themes of the songs in ingenious fashion. They act like a shadow or a spirit slightly outside of the music.
Even ‘Cockleshell’, which begins like a plainly gorgeous folk song, takes a detour down an intriguing side road and manages to cast an unexpected light on the beauty it describes. Maybe a harsh one, maybe a stoic one.
You might call it chamber folk except that the songs seem to have more of a connection to outdoors than indoors. This is made explicit in the field recordings of ‘All objects will cease’ but apart from that there’s an earthiness to the songs and arrangements which wouldn’t necessarily sit easily with the concert hall. Kirby’s voice also has a particular twist to it, a catch in the throat or a back of the mouth lilt which doesn't have that classical polish. It is still, however, wholly compelling.
Discreet ambient hums, stand up piano in a reverbed room, the long decay of a deep gong, simply picked guitars, judicious chord sequences, a spare bass, a single church organ sounding synth on the wonderfully plaintiff ‘Dle Yaman’ – these are the elements in support of the outstanding voices. All perfectly judged and contributing handsomely to the whole effect.
A triumph of an album from what is clearly an outstanding musical group.