Brigid Power-Ryce‘s first solo full-length contains “the best songs she’s ever written”, says Ian Maleney.
I Told You The Truth is Brigid Power-Ryce’s first solo album. Before this, she’s released a couple of EPs (including the great Ode To An Embryo), appeared on the I’m In The Abyss compilation and formed one-third of Gorges. Most everything we’ve heard so far has been recorded in an abandoned underground car park in Galway, but I Told You The Truth is set in a new location, St. Nicholas Church. The difference is immediately noticeable. The ambience is softer somehow, a little more relaxed. The playing is a little rougher around the edges, less delicate perhaps, and all the better for it. Most importantly of all, the songs are the best she’s ever written.
Though, on the surface, she doesn’t sound particularly like either, Power-Ryce is not unlike Joanna Newsom or even Fiona Apple in her lack of vocal fear, being not just melodically and dynamically rich, but tonally rich too. On a track like ‘I Don’t Know How To Do This Naturally’, the voice twists and shifts, jumps, turns on itself, one minute nasal, the next throaty, the next sweet as apple pie. Or ‘Let Love’, where the melody can move up and down around the more stable tonal centre of the accordion. There’s never a hint of trepidation or caution in it, but rather the intuition that only a true honesty, a genuine letting go, can lead to worthwhile self-preservation. The sense is of someone getting lost in the joy of their own capabilities, wrapped up where no one can touch them. Safe in this place, and maybe only here.
In both the songs and the sound of the church which hangs heavy around them, you can hear a private space, a home of sorts being eked out, note by note. It feels a space away from the world. When you hear the cars and birds outside the church, you know the outside is still there, but inside the walls its possible to be unperceived, to be safe from view. Not hiding, not afraid, just making the time and space for yourself. It’s this which gives the album its unique mood – introspective, but never timid – to which Power-Ryce appears completely committed. No matter where this commitment takes them, the performances are always powerful; emotional and intimate, strong, confident, raw. There are moments that feel confessional and others, such as the ever-rising closer ‘Tiny You and Me’, that feel ecstatic, like a happiness close to tears. One way or another, there’s no holding back. In soft times, this kind of honesty will always be refreshing.