Review | Fir Wave – Hannah Peel

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Fir Wave is Peel’s most intricate and inviting work yet.

In a conversation with former collaborator Will Burns for The Quietus, Hannah Peel discussed the increased lack of lyrics in her recent work, describing a “struggle to capture my feelings adequately” in poetics. And if Fir Wave serves to re-affirm anything, it’s that Peel clearly doesn’t need to rely on words to articulate her observations and connections between herself and the world.

Perhaps this is apt given the inspiration for the album. Fir Wave acts as an ode to the environment; the album’s name derives from a photo of fir trees Peel saw while reading National Geographic, while the the song’s titles and content aim to depict the Earth’s ecological processes. The absence of a palpable human presence seems fitting and prevents a diversion from the album’s definitively organic themes.

Fir Wave also takes root from the early 1970s work of Delia Derbyshire with the KPM Library, given to Peel for a radical restructuring and ordering. The end result is one of the most stylistically diverse electronica albums released in years. The blending of Derbyshire’s pioneering experimentation alongside Peel’s astute eclecticism leaves a collection that offers a dazzling journey through every realm of electronic music.

Lead single ‘Emergence in Nature’ sees a transformation from pulsating IDM into a magnificent orchestral groove that portrays a vivid changing of the seasons. Synth-heavy ‘Patterned Formation’ asserts a gloomy Berlin-era Bowie character to the mix, while ‘Carbon Cycle’, a more transient composition altogether, would sit comfortably alongside the reluctant optimism of Dazzle Ships-era OMD or Brian Eno’s Apollo.

Such is the scale of imagination on Fir Wave, there lies a difficulty in finding the correct terms to justly describe the gargantuan nature of both the tracks and the imagery they stimulate. Every shift in tone, rhythm or harmony is meticulously crafted to evoke an atmosphere so fantastical that permeates both the conscious and unconscious listener. The Odyssean titular track, split between one half of focused electronics and another of more reserved, contemplative piano, lays particular claim to this over-awing sense of presence.

What Peel has created in Fir Wave is an expression of unfettered kinship with the world, iridescent hope for its longevity and an underlying anxiety for its fate. It’s a breathtaking venture into the routines of life and nature given a strikingly panoramic soundtrack that pays tributes to its most romantic features. The extent of Peel’s affinity for planet Earth and respect for the works of Delia Derbyshire is evident throughout, making Fir Wave not only an album of indisputable quality, but one of learned intuition and invention.

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