A Norwich-based folk-noir singer-songwriter inspired by the subversive folk tales of Angela Carter and whose vocal range has drawn comparisons to Kate Bush, Into The Wilderness, produced by Jon Loomes, is Delf’s debut album, the songs featuring the usual drums, guitar and bass but also more orchestral colours from brass, woodwind, piano strings and, on the opening ‘Howl’, Kantele, a Finnish folk harp, the track a dramatic, lyrically dark number about self-expression and growing up (“I’ve sat in the spotlight and I’ve spoken aloud/Ripped open my chest and let blood fall on the ground/It’s brought me no pleasure and it’s brought me no gain/And now soap and water have erased the stain”) without giving up (“Listen to me howl. We step out of cages we make”).
A sparse, deep drum beat imbuing it with a solemn march feel, brushed with strings and flute, ‘Stealing My Fear Away’ draws on William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience in its refrain (“The sweetness of songs of my innocence/Untainted by hard-edged experience”), and again the need to overcome our fears and reveal our true selves, while, piano to the fore, ‘Wavelength’ is an understated slow waltz with harpsichord and a wash of cymbals, that recalls memories of childhood on the Norfolk coast (“I can’t describe the feeling/Of standing on the sand, bare feet/Complete overwhelming emotion/God knows what this feeling is, maybe peace”),
The folk noir side is more prominent on the restrained piano and cello shaded lilt of ‘If She Were To Fall’ addressing the self-exposure and vulnerability of falling in love (“‘Close your eyes and trust in me’ he said/Oh, what big teeth you have”) and the six minute ‘Singing With My Ghosts’ with its echoing piano notes as she explores the power of memory and music to hold on to those otherwise lost. And, most notably, the percussive, dark, droning rumble of ‘My Familiar’ with hurdy gurdy adding extra textures to the incantation-like rhythm as, exploring the process of putting yourself back together, she sings “I put my bones back piece by piece, I steal the blood back from the beast/ I take the most I give the least/This woman will not fall”).
Opening on sparse piano noted and cello drone, borrowing a theme from ‘Jupiter’ in Holst’s ‘Planet Suite’, Delf’s swooping vocals dark and measured yet also light and airy in the backing harmonies, ‘Heaviness In The Head’ finds positivism in life’s low moments (“There’s a forest in my eyes and a brook in my brain/Pull the flowers over my head, asphyxiate yourself sane/Keep breathing, even when you’re alone/Don’t dig up the seeds you’ve already sown”), the mood shifting musically with the baroque wheezing carousel sound of ‘In The Court Of The Queen Of Strangeness’ that pays homage to Carter (“You conjure wings and claws and fang/You see an odyssey, your cloven feet/Eyes that have been open/That have stared right at the sun/Stares that have tried to hurt us/I don’t just see a woman”).
On similar musical lines, the icily waltzing ‘Penance’ conjures a musical box programmed by Danny Elfman and featuring cimbalom, the song a feminist message celebrating women who refused to be bound by that patriarchal attitudes of their time (“It’s a witch hunt/But the witches do the hunting/With a pitchfork/We know you don’t like magic/That’s what it’s for/It’s easy to be a big man, shake all the big hands/When every hour you earn a grand/But it’s easy for us to see through”) and calling to the current generation to continue their fight for justice as she sings “We’ll be waiting in the wings, on the wings of the women who’ve brought us this far… We’re not a spare rib, or a spare part/We’ve assembled and we’re moving fast …You took so much without regret/The time has come to pay the debt.”
It ends with the near six-minute spooky (hints of Oldfield in ‘Exorcist’ mood) title track declaring “I’m not lost, I’m in the wilderness” as she explores the connection between the wilderness of the natural world and the psychological wilderness within where peace can only be found by overcoming the anxiety of letting go and accepting the more troubled aspect of your life (“The lightning could strike me, my body could smite me/But skin can heal, we try to heal/Anything can be cured when there’s peace in the head”).
Into The Wilderness is a dense, complex work that doesn’t lend itself to immediate acceptance, but the more you listen the more it weaves its spell and draws you into the throbbing heart.
Artist’s website: www.elizadelf.com
‘Into The Wilderness’ – live: