Murmurations

by Pefkin

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1.
Redshanks 07:54
2.
Phalaropes 11:48
3.
Swallows 07:08
4.
Jackdaws 09:39
5.
Starlings 03:51

about

New album from Gayle Brogan of Electroscope / Barrett's Dottled Beauty on Morc Records. 5 songs on various subjects filtered through observations of nature and wildlife. Featuring collaborations with John Cavanagh (Phosphene), Tom Dalzell (Jazzhandstemazepamman) and Alan Davidson (Kitchen Cynics) as well as an adaptation of a poem Gayle was given to record by Charlie Gracie.

Review from Compulsion Online
Pefkin is the solo project of Gayle Brogan, one-half of the psych-pop duo Electroscope. While Electroscope lean towards more psychedelic analogue electronics, Pefkin allows Brogan to spread her wings into more folk-tinged drone based material. Birds figured heavily in Pefkin's previous albums Inner Circle Outer Circle and Liminal Rites and Murmurations continues that fascination to the extent that each song is titled after a species of bird. Pefkin can be characterised by their enchanting combination of folksong, strings and drone. Drones and electronics flutter around the stark and brittle strings, carried by Brogan's hushed utterings. On Murmurations Gayle Brogan is joined by guest artists including Alan Davidson on clarinet and bowed bass, Tom Dalzell on electronics and of course John Cavanagh on clarinet and analogue synthesizers. These collaborations extend the sound palette somewhat but the songs remain deeply introspective bathed in a hazy melancholy giving Brogan space to ruminate on birds, nature, wildlife and landscape.

Released by the Belgian label Morc Records on vinyl, side 1 comprises collaborations with Alan Davidson of Kitchen Cynics on 'Redshanks' while 'Phalaropes' brings Brogan back together with Phosphene's John Cavanagh, who of course is her partner in Electroscope. 'Redshanks' is a fragile concoction of delayed guitars and faint electronic oscillations. It drifts unhurried, unfurling like a coastal breeze, carried by Brogan's soft murmurs. Echoes of electronics ebb and flow amidst clarinet melody billowing freely over a soft folk tinged jangle. The combination of Brogan's breathy tones with the brittle free-form arrangement is captivating.

Brogan is also one-half of Electroscope, a musical project she shares with John Cavanagh and that groups love of analogue and vintage synths seep into 'Phalaropes'. Over pumping organ drone Brogan's brittle vocals and harmonic tones sing of the seasons. The music is loosely improvised and lo-fi couched in pipe-like drones and doleful clarinet surrounding her hushed tones. Unfolding slowly, as all Pefkin songs do, it adds oscillation whirs and windswept atmospherics to the tranquil layer of folk song. The last moments are subject to textured needle static as the voice continues to weave its magic. John Cavanagh has been a regular collaborator to Pefkin and just as the psych free-folk drones of 'Hallucigenia' from Liminal Rites took its influence from Electroscope so too does 'Phalaropes', and I mean that as a point of reference rather than as a criticism.

Flip it over and there are another three tracks once again all titled after birds common to the mainland and islands of Scotland. The drone based 'Swallows' crosses into darker terrain than Pefkin usually inhabit. Brogan's layered spectral wail wafts over the undulating buzz drone which provides the undertow here. Speckled with soft pummels and electro claps, this collaboration with electronic noise outfit Jazzhandstemazepamman even allows Pefkin to absorb some harsher elements that surface and pierce the ghostly wavering electronics. This inclusion of noise and beats is a neat move bringing forth a new dimension to Pefkin's atmospheric sound excursions.

With the solemn organ chords of 'Jackdaws' Pefkin return to more familiar folk based sounds. Brogan's singing here is most reminiscent of folk song, as she recites poetry from Charlie Gracie, whose poem this track is based on received nominations for several awards. Adorned by passages of pipe drone and organ chime, it evokes the rugged mountains where jackdaws are familiar. Towards the end Brogan switches from a folk song timbre to distant treated spoken word as the organ chords merge with glistening tonal electronics.

"Starlings are born with a map of the stars in their heads" Brogan coos in soft almost hesitant tones over the sombre lulling piano chords augmented with the slightest of sound treatments on the final track. The stark arrangement captures the alluring intimacy of Pefkin. It seems Pefkin's approach is to strip down folk song and to reimagine it, rendering it in hushed and layered vocals over a free-form combination of drones, electronics, pipes and clarinet. Murmurations like the previous albums I've heard from Pefkin is beguiling and enchanting; their quiet mystical intimacy a joy to behold. Immersive and enchanting, Murmurations is well worth tracking down as it is released on vinyl in a short-run of 125 copies. For more information go to Morc Records or Pefkin's Bandcamp page

Review by Grey Malkin on Active Listener

To start with Pefkin, ‘Murmurations’ finds Brogan referencing her ornithological interests and reflecting upon her observations amongst nature. Fittingly then, 'Redshanks' opens the album with the buzz of bowed strings and Brogan's beautiful, unearthly vocals, suggesting dusk upon a deserted landscape, wind curling around the barren horizon and the shapes of wheeling birds. Exploratory slide guitar takes this track into darker, shadowy territory not unlike ‘Saucerful of Secrets’ era Floyd in its vast, cavernous mood. Layered strings and vocals build the track into a buzz of pensive beauty, a truly remarkable opening to an album that continues to be a hugely immersive and affecting listen. 'Phalaropes' is equally gorgeous though distinctly more cosmiche; modular synths whir behind Brogan and drift into vast echoes in space, hints of Popol Vuh and Cluster orbiting around the glorious collage of sound. Next, 'Swallows' enters on waves of analogue synth, Brogan's vocals eerily swooping in and out of the electronics until distant percussion and drums punctuate the landscape. Quite unlike anything else you might hear, Pefkin has created her own soundtrack to the dying of the day, the music that invites the myriad of birds and creatures to awake into the twilight world. 'Jackdaws' reverberating organ intones Suicide-like, an ominous hymnal to the natural world that both captivates and unnerves whilst album closer 'Starlings' is a gorgeous lament framed by piano and violin. A remarkable album and clearly the product of a singular vision, 'Murmurations' needs to be heard. Listening now it can easily be imagined that hearing this album is something akin to what it must have been like hearing Nico's 'Marble Index' when it was released; alien yet curiously familiar, beautiful yet stark, hypnotic yet troubling. A triumph.

Review from The Terrascope

As well as recording in the duo Electroscope, with John Cavanagh who appears on this album and as one half of Barret's Dottled Beauty with Alan Davidson (who also appears on this album), experimental artist Gayle Brogan releases predominately solo albums under the name Pefkin. Taking as its inspiration Gayle's love of all things ornithological, the five tracks are named after types of birds, the title itself reference to the swarms of Starlings that are sadly a vanishing sight these days, the music conjuring up the movement and denseness of these displays.
Building slowly with voice, bowed bass and droning strings, “Redshanks” has the feel of rainfall moving in across an estuary, a lonesome Clarinet adding a soft wistfulness to the music, the words almost lost to the wind, the whole piece allowing the listener to drift away across magical landscapes.
Keeping the same atmosphere, “Phalaropes” ( a type of wader with lobed toes) is enhanced by subtle electronics supplied by John Cavanagh, the music again reflective and flecked with clarinet, a slowly rolling drone that is beautiful and rewarding, the sound rippling outwards before dissolving into memory.
Opening side two, “Jackdaws” has a more prominent electronic drone and a hazy psychedelic overtone, the distorted vocals offering a darker meaning to the sounds, wrapping themselves around the bleak words to chilling effect creating a disturbing piece of droning ambience that creeps and coils around you, the addition of a slow electronic pulse only heightening the tension created by the lyrics, “Jackdaws souls never leave their bodies, they ooze all their black ungodliness into their molecules, and wait”, written by Charlie Gracie.
Less dark, but cloaked in melancholy, “Swallows” is built on a slowly repeating bass line that is filled with sadness, the slow nature of the track allowing you to become completely lost in its haze, especially when clouds of electronics and chaos (courtesy of Jazzhandstemazepamman) hang like gossamer threads from the core of the tune, entwining with the vocal line delightfully.
With creaking piano and distant voice, “Starlings” is stripped back and sparse, something that only adds to its wonder, Gayle's voice finally surfacing to the top of the music, its wistful timbre perfectly matching the piano notes that fall around it, ending an album that is blessed with mystery and a sombre majesty. (Simon Lewis)

credits

released March 28, 2017

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Pefkin Glasgow, UK

Pefkin is the alter ego of Gayle Brogan, Ayrshire-based creator of slowly-unfolding, ritualistic hymnals that draw heavily on the landscape and natural world.
She is also a member of Burd Ellen, Electroscope, Barrett's Dottled Beauty, Meadowsilver and plays live with Kitchen Cynics.
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