Together With Yourself At Sea Level brings together elements of folk, jazz and even rock in one rather astonishing package. Gillian Fleetwood is a Scottish harper, composer and singer, all of which combine in this album. The music was originally composed for Grecian harp and small harp and a solo album in that style would be a delight as evidenced by the almost solo ‘The Shell Grows’ but Gillian has taken the music much further.
The first track, ‘Drawing Room’, begins with Martin John Henry’s guitar and Tim Lane’s percussion before the harp joins in with Laura Wilkie’s fiddle and Suz Applebe’s cello. Then out of nowhere come unexpected bass notes. This is Mikey Owers, a member of the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, who is credited with “brass” but his main instrument is bass trombone and if you’ve never heard a bass trombone you haven’t lived.
The second track, ‘For The Love In Glenbuchat’, has a renaissance feel and holds no surprises as it leads into the first song, ‘Walnut Waltz’. Actually, this should be described as a composition with words and now we seem to be settling into a pastoral harp album with ‘Because Sometimes Joy Is An Act Of Defiance’ until the whole band pitches in led by the brass. I should mention producer C Duncan here because it’s his double bass introducing ‘Dining Room’. The track titles really don’t explain much about music and neither does the album title but clearly they all mean something to Gillian. She says that the record grew out of “challenging times” and it would seem that she challenged herself to push her musical envelope.
Two tracks showcase the harps. ‘Cedar’ also has words and Gillian multitracked into a choir – or is that Duncan’s keyboard trickery? or even both – and then comes the aforementioned ‘The Shell Grows’. Even on the simpler arrangements there is always something happening under the surface, sometimes very subtle sometimes more up front. The next set, ‘For The Bathtubs/Freya’s’, has the feel of traditional music but funky with the supporting cast enjoying a really good blow ending with Mikey’s subterranean bass. Probably my favourite track.
What I particularly like about Together With Yourself At Sea Level is the ebb and flow of the music, perhaps echoing the title. ‘Monkey Puzzle’ is a robust harp piece and ‘Cold Water’ starts gently but then Tim Lane’s drums take it elsewhere just before Gillian’s “choir” returns. ‘John McLeod’s Marching Past’ is the least martial piece you’ve ever heard unlike ‘We’re All Cheering You On/Finn The Fantastic/Phantastic Corrina Hewat’ which is a real kitchen sink number. Finally, a pastoral reprise of ‘For The Love In Glenbuchat’ brings the album to a close.
It took some time to get into Together With Yourself At Sea Level. It’s an album that sounds different every time you play it as though something mystical is manipulating the fabric of the CD. It will offer up something new with every play.
Artist’s website: https://www.gillianfleetwood.com/
‘The Shell Grows’ – officially live:
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