HORSE SWEAT CHANDELIER
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"MacGillivray is a poet and performer who sang on Jem Finer and Andrew Kotting's 2013 album 'Swandown'. Her third album, 'Horse Sweat Chandelier', which she calls 'a soundscape for Scotland in 2014', derives its title from George Stubbs's beautifully violent 18th century paintings of a lion eating a horse (or is the horse allowing itself to be eaten by a lion?) that have long been seen as allegories of state power, and have special potency today when Scotland is readying itself for a referendum on independence. The country is braced for a torrent-storm of competing narratives and myths, visions and incantations - all of them seeking to fix or free the nation's identity.
This fine, mysterious record - shifting between chamber music, Gaelic mountain songs and dramatic chansons - isn't a protest album. Its references to history are oblique, fabulistic: "O Bonnie Charlie where have you gone?/ Christ has lit a neon thumb/ Hollywood is trying hard to get a hero spitting blood". Throughout, the mood is one of fraught and blessed possession - the past is channelled rather than re-enacted. Norrie's vocals - at times reminiscent of Dead Can Dance's Lisa Gerrard, or even Nico (the record was produced by Nico's former collaborator and biographer James Young) - are at once forceful and fugitive.
"Let Winter Round Me Rave", fattened by electronic beats, has the muscularity of Jenny Hval's "Innocence is Kinky" and PJ Harvey's "Let England Shake". Mostly the songs are unstable: ghostly requiems and martial prophecies, lonesome lullabies and fierce spells. Their lyrics are marinated in topographies and mythologies whose precise meanings are unclear. They hover, perhaps like Scotland itself, on the threshold between isolationism and epic adventure."
- The Wire 362, April 2014, Sukhdev Sandhu