Emily Barker: A Dark Murmuration of Words (Thirty Tigers/digital outlets)

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Emily Barker: A Dark Murmuration of Words (Thirty Tigers/digital outlets)

Those who were engrossed by the British version of the television series Wallander (guilty!) about a Swedish detective played by Kenneth Branagh – and many Swedes I've met preferred it to the local original – might recognise the name of this Australian singer-songwriter.

She wrote the haunting theme music for that BBC series, which alone might be recommendation enough for this fine collection of crisply live and immediate, lightly embellished folk which often has a similarly haunting quality as that TV theme, Nostalgia.

Barker's voice is languid but she enunciates clearly and pulls you into her songs and the album's seemingly complex title slips lightly off the tongue (in Geography), she salutes the Kenyan political activist and Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai on The Woman Who Plants Trees (where literal and metaphorical sit easily together), urgently addresses our current environmental crisis (Where Have the Sparrows Gone?), and the stark Machine sings from the perspective of a “celebrated sinner with statues in the park” who “covered all my tracks in books on history and justified my actions through anthropology” which delivers disconcerting sonic effects and simple percussion and a to underscore the unease of the machine that “runs on its own”.

There is beauty here in her vocals too, as on the catchy When Stars Cannot Be Found and the arrangements for strings hint at minimalism as much as Romanticism (Ordinary) and personal issues come through too (Any More Goodbyes).

The final track Sonogram rounds this 10 song collection as a pensive piece at piano.

Never having heard anything of her since Wallander/Nostalgia many years ago has this writer checking out her previous Sweet Kind of Blue (which is more uptempo and bluesy, and less successful).

Start here.

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You can hear this album at Spotify here.

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Here is Emily Barker searching for Wallander in Ystad, Sweden where the series was filmed. Elsewhere has a story about the Wallander series, its author Henning Mankel and our own jorney to Ystad here. And the first Brannagh series are reviewed here.


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