A re-imagining of the Such Small Hands (singer/songwriter/instrumentalist Melanie Howard) release from September last year, now featuring just voice and guitar. Packaged as a limited CD edition of 150, each in a unique hand-painted sleeve to hold the precious cargo of these ethereal songs.
The original versions had the extra dimensions of changing keyboard and vocal treatments but on this new album the guitar sets a distinctive tone for each track. There are the gently strummed chords for the unhurried opening meditation of ‘Lonely Is The Rain’, followed by the hypnotic triplets throughout ‘Do I Belong Here?’ and the fast walking urgency of the steps in ‘Drifter’.
In all of the tracks it is Melanie’s voice that is the key; listen to the vocal performance on the timeless waltz of ‘O Patient One’, it is like the gentle unwinding of a silk thread. Sometimes extra harmonies augment the raw recording – used to great effect on the counterpoint chorus of ‘Electric Touch’ and the waterfall of music and voices of ‘Why Am I Like This?’.
Title track ‘Carousel’ retains the otherworldly atmosphere of the original in this sparsely layered version while ‘Anhedonia’ is starkly beautiful. Bonus track ‘Ghost’ sinuously brings the gorgeous collection to a graceful end.
‘Carousel’ is a new release from Such Small Hands, the performing name of Brighton singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Melanie Howard. A blend of treated acoustic instruments, voice and electronics create a haunting, drifting sound.
‘Lonely Is The Rain’ is an evocative and sombre title for the opener – a measured and mellow five minute meditation, with an echoing guitar and keyboard counterpointing with Melanie’s ethereal voice. The electronic percussion picks up the pace near the end but the listener is overwhelmed by the delicate beauty of the track.
‘Do I Belong Here?’ is built around an acoustic guitar triplet figure and smoky layers of vocals weaving into a heady mix. ‘Drifter’ is a lo-fi delight then ‘Still Dreaming’ is probably my favourite on the LP. The introduction could be the theme to a cult sixties movie thriller then it transforms into a sensuous interweaving of vocals and descending chord progression. With spectral keyboard tones continually adding flavour, by the end it is epic and almost orchestral in its ambition.
The title track ‘Carousel’ is built around a repeating note and a louder electric ambience alternated with quieter thoughtful sections. The pensive and beautiful ‘Anhedonia’ closes the album (along with two bonus acoustic reworkings of older songs).
Reflecting the experience of ten years of writing and reshaping of the music, this excellent LP rewards in-depth listening and immersion in the tracks as they range from atmospheric vignettes to darker pieces that occupy the hinterland between nightmare and daydream.
Such Small Hands is the performing name of Brighton musician Melanie Howard.
This is a double release of single and EP titled ‘In Your Most Fragile Gestures Are Things Which Enclose Me’, a reference from the poet e.e.cummings, as is ‘such small hands’ from the same poem. This is a minimalist gem, slipping through the net on release but finally reaching my review site.
Opening with ‘The Deep’, a subtle concoction of delicate voice and sparse keyboard backing, the sounds processed to make them appear as they have indeed travelled through many fathoms of water. Gentle percussive patterns introduce ‘Legs’, even sparser musically but with a more natural sound to the vocal. ‘Ghost’ has as near as we get to a catchy chorus line, then ‘Hello’ sounds ethereal and a bit sinister. ‘Psycho’ is an intriguing mix of elements from what has come before with some busy percussion and the most up-front vocal so far. ‘Rachel’ is plaintive and melodic with simple guitar lines and ‘Ominous’ has a similar style.