FLO PERLIN – Clay (own label)

ClayThe third album by the London-based singer-songwriter and sometime Nest Collective member, Clay serves as a metaphor for the human capacity to adapt and adjust to different challenges, as we mould and change shapes, growing and adapting to new forms. It opens with the whisperingly sung, clattering drum rhythm and bustling ‘Feels Like Yesterday’, a song about she and her two sisters revisiting a special place from her childhood and reflecting that while she herself had changed significantly it felt like nothing had changed at all, encapsulated in the line “We drove back through the hills that we’d known/where nothing had changed, our faces were all that had grown”.

Of Iraqi and Belarusian heritage, recent acoustic jazzy folk single ‘Mother Tongue’ reflects on how her ancestors’ language hasn’t been passed down through the generations but how, searching for identity, we still inherit their traits, in Perlin’s case through making music.

Identity is also the subject of the mid-tempo walking paced ‘At Your Prime’, albeit from a different perspective, the song having her imaging herself as an older women and what she’d tell her younger self, reminding her of the moments of joy and what she would do differently, reflecting that you can be at your prime now rather than having to wait for it to somehow happen (“I miss my own embrace”) and not, so to speak, worrying over spilt milk (“I’ll hurt god again/To go back so I don’t pretend to men… I’ll count back from 10/To trust myself and do it all again/It was not a crime/To pave your way to live your life at your prime”).

Simply strummed and softly sung with understated drums and an itchy rhythm, ‘Friend Of Mine’ is another conversation with herself as she explores how we can be our own best friend or our worst enemy, that, while we may seek the understanding of others, it’s also ok to be kind to yourself and not your own harshest critic (“Bruises pass, but the symptoms live within your body/Learn to talk to your mind”).

That memories of times passed theme also underpins the lurching ‘The Room That He Grew Up In’ in which a man remembers himself as a boy, reflecting on the dreams he once had and how things have turned out. One of the jazzier tracks as the tempo quickens and slows and bass clarinet and piano add their colours to the mix. That sense of retrospective thinking seems to logically lead into ‘Share My Heart’, a revisiting of a song from her debut album and one of the first she wrote back when she was 11, getting into teenage angst at an early age (“We made a memory of our family, the ones we didn’t see/Too bad I know our love, will never last, surely things will pass”).

The moody title track with its fluttering guitar notes almost wallowing (“Swallowed my tears, I liked the taste”) and introspective mien (“That’s me on the outside/Wear my shoes and walk away… Watch the shells collide/That’s me on the inside/Chased by the tide you’ll I’ll sink to the bay/Like you’re the only one that’s ever felt this way”) reflects on mistakes made but how they are an important part of transformation and part of being human, strings quietly humming in the background.

‘Where She Started From’ is rooted in her experience with depression and feeling she’d never escape from its grip (“Many things had stayed/Many times she thought they would just fade/Days gone, back to where she started from …She didn’t fight/he didn’t sing/She tossed all night/She burnt her things/She filled her pockets with the most that she could bare”) but also the hope that the weight will eventually ease and she would feel “the lifting of that coffin in her chest”.

Almost ghostly with its distant piano, shimmers and metronomic percussion, ‘Bedroom’ unfolds the story of two people exploring intimacy and the courage needed to have those uncomfortable conversations (“He noticed how she paused/As she moved away from touch/She apologised for expressing/Did I speak too much? He said”) that can lead to more meaningful connections (“As they danced across the room/Their thoughts were fading/Oh they danced between the doubts/Now it’s their lips they’re tasting”) or, as she puts it “If you could speak for yourself/You’d expose who you are”.

It ends with ‘Part Of Me’, articulating that feeling of losing part of yourself when you enter – or indeed leave – a relationship (“Part of me fades when you go, when you’re gone…Part of me goes insane, when you go”) but how the great loves stay within us (“That’s when I know, I can’t feel this love with no one else”), the track conjuring a Suzanne Vega jazzy shuffle with Kaidi Akinnibi sharing lead vocals and seeing the track out with some evocative saxophone.

Occupying the jazzier and soulful side of folk, Perlin weaves an intoxicating and often sensual spell, this feat of Clay is quite remarkable.

Mike Davies

Artist’s website: www.floperlin.com

‘Part Of Me’:

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