'In Tension' EP by Alys Rain

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'In Tension' EP by Alys Rain

Review

I'm pleased to introduce another new name (to the magazine at least) today: that of Alys Rain whose ‘In Tension' EP is now out on Holy Crow Records.

As the artist herself helpfully tells us, "Alys Rain" is the "dark-folk-bluesy project of Izzy Hadlum,
Inspired by alt folk, rain and getting lost" and she's "filling the liminal mid-land void with meandering lofi guitar". Which certainly doesn't breach any Trades Description Act provisions.

The three tracks you will hear when you play "In Tension" are called "In Tension", "Speak Softly" and "Driving In The Rain" and were recorded at Complete Sound Studios, Leamington back in October by Phoneutrian.

Guitar led, as she advertises, the sound may be "lo-fi" (not sure I would have used that descriptor had she not used it herself) but the playing is most imaginative.

The title track is a solo guitar instrumental: a style I always feel inadequate reviewing as my comfort zone is dependent on lyrics to help be to discern an intended meaning. This one has the tautness its title suggests but is full of the meanders she also promises: starting in a pretty much folk style but offering diversions through a number of other approaches including some quite heavy passages.

"Speak Softly" is, in contrast a sort of baroque-folk piece: most interesting as far as this reviewer goes and I'd hope for you too. It's the track on the EP which comes closest to what one might expect of "classical" music and as such pushes Alys' self definition to the limits. I could listen to this many times without tiring of it.

"Driving In The Rain" finally introduces the artist's vocals (and the plural in intentional) in this highly atmospheric track. With the lyrics (which reflect the title) available, at last I can feel confident about the meaning of the track (though I'd imagine you are probably ahead of me on that anyway): here we have a tension between the apparent potential for stress in "driving in the rain with the headlights on" and the state of mindfulness she is apparently experiencing in so doing. Soundwise, it reminded me a lot of the sort of song which Tracey Thorn was creating in that short solo career she had as The Marine Girls were winding down & Everything But The Girl was only just starting. Certainly "Driving In The Rain" would not sound out of place on the legendary ‘Pillows & Prayers'.

An intriguing release, this is her first set of studio recordings  as it was preceded by ‘Rain Shower' which is a set of thirty-one demos recorded on her phone during lockdown: some very experimental in nature, some extended, some of them fragments, many enigmas and possible pointers to where this interesting artist might go in the future.

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