Tamsin Elliott is a talented multi-instrumentalist, composer and film-maker based in Bristol. She is a member of the quintet, Solana, alongside her brother Rowan who is one of her supporters here. Also present are Sid Goldsmith, Rowan Rheingans, Rowan Elliott, percussionist Ricardo de Noronha and Soufian Saihi on oud. Frey, her debut solo album, was written after a period of ill-health followed by the pandemic which undoubtedly explains the melancholy in some of her music.
The music is varied but dense. After the Scottish sounding and a bit doom-laden ‘Uma’s Song’, which opens the set, comes two lively dance tunes, ‘Old Wax Jacket/A Coat Of Sawdust’, very much an ensemble piece with every instrument pitching in. You might think that they are traditional but all the music is composed by Tamsin, giving us a glimpse of the breadth of her musical imagination. Solana is a multi-national group and it’s clear that their background informs her music. For example, Saihi’s oud takes the lead on ‘Cold Moon’, a piece which transports the listener to strange and exotic lands.
‘Lullaby’ begins gently with Tamsin’s harp before deeper notes join in – wordless vocals certainly, and perhaps some flute and synth. As I said, the music is dense. ‘I Dreamed I Was An Eagle’ follows a similar pattern. The first of two atmospheric vignettes is followed by the flute-led ‘Light As Bone’ and the mournful ‘Lament’. The mood is deepened by the following titles: ‘When The Times Darken’, with lyrics from a poem by Bertold Brecht and ‘The Loss Endured’ – two parts but both relatively short.
‘Emerging/Full Squirrel’ is firstly a pastoral piece featuring the higher reaches of the accordion and then a rather jolly country dance tune before the second ‘Vignette’ leads into the calming ‘Cygnus’, again featuring Tamsin’s harp.
I’m afraid that my humble words can’t really do justice to Frey. There is so much happening here and I can only say what I hear. Perhaps you can do better.
Artist’s website: http://www.tamsinelliott.co.uk/
‘Old Wax Jacket/A Coat Of Sawdust’ – live: