wed 12/08/2020

Album: Polly Scattergood - In This Moment | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Polly Scattergood - In This Moment

Album: Polly Scattergood - In This Moment

The enigmatic musician's third album takes listeners on a gently experimental journey

Through a glass darkly...

A decade ago, Polly Scattergood was Mute Records’ newest, most-likely-to signing and, while she never crossed over like similar unconventional female artists of the period (Bat For Lashes, St Vincent, Anna Calvi, etc), she has a developed a cult following. Where her previous two solo albums combined vaguely Björk-ish gossamer vocals with a delicately smudged take on electro-pop, In This Moment, no longer on Mute, untethers itself into artier territory. Enjoyment depends on how far the listener is willing to follow her.

One notable difference from what came before is a tendency towards spoken and sung-spoken vocals, poetry whispered, filmic visions, notably on “Sphere”, the opiated-sounding “Pearl” and the title track. It is literate, allegorical work, reflections perhaps on Scattergood’s life in the wake of having her first child, very specifically so on “Bloom” (“You are the miracle of existence/My entire solar system”). There are some great lines amongst it - “He puts out a cigarette on the table/Grinding it out like a charcoal star” – but a shortage of actual tunes.

Scattergood’s musical styling centres on the piano, but around it are built swirling soundscapes, fuzz, skittering, ambient noise, echo, sonic moods spun from life, especially on “Fire” which features, yes, a crackling fire. Her voice, spooked and sometimes child-like, flits about amongst all this, as do occasional orchestrations, such as on “After You”, which aims for the ethereal. The seven minute opener “Red” is quite something, a highlight, building and building, layering images and sounds.

If, however, you are after songs that stick, rather than an overall mood piece, the last three numbers are where to head. “The End Was Glorious” is the best thing here, an enigmatic tale sung over rolling drums, with a catchy chorus, but “Avalanche” and the balladic closer “Anchor” are gently involving too.

Scattergood is capable of material that balances the exploratory with the catchy. Her onDeadWaves album with James Chapman of Maps, especially, is superbly engaging. With In This Moment she asks us to go on a less immediate journey that has one toe in the modern classical experiments of Hauschka, Matti Bye and the like, and less interest in the traditions of pop and rock. It is a fine-spun and woozily fractured affair, an esoteric addition to her canon that fans will find their way back to, as it slowly reveals itself.

Below: Polly Scattergood performs a persuasive, stripped back, lockdown version of "Red" in her attic

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