Fraya Thomsen is a Scottish harper, composer, singer and teacher who draws her musical inspirations from far and wide without ever allowing herself to be pigeonholed. Release began life as a commission for Celtic Connections and was recorded in this form in isolation during 2020. Fraya is as well known for her film music as for her work in the folk world and although there are traditional influences here there are many other elements present.
The key themes are ecological tinged with politics. The set opens with a short, gentle composition called ‘Kind Sad Girl’ which is reprised in full to close the album. That’s followed by two tunes with a traditional structure; ‘Bob Burt’s/For The Love Of Shoogles’ – I should have said that all the music is by Fraya with the exception of lyrics to one song by Lucy Cash. Now we come to the meat of the record. ‘Connected’ explores the theme of the interconnectedness of all life and the band makes its presence felt. Shanti Paul Jayasinha’s trumpet and flugelhorn have a big impact as do James Maddren’s drums and percussion and Sarah Allen’s flute so ‘Connected’ has a gentle jazz/funk feel. ‘Save The World’ is written from a child’s point of view and sometimes the blend of sounds put me in mind of Quintessence or Dr Strangely Strange perhaps – without sounding like either of them, of course.
‘Electrons’ is an instrumental flight of fancy and ‘Tiger’ describes the personal transformation from flight to fight. ‘For The Water Protectors’ is a thoughtful harp and flute duet with wordless vocalisations dedicated to the North Dakota access pipeline protesters. ‘Not For This’ is a surprisingly gentle response to the lies of mainstream media while ‘Just This Skyline’ (with Lucy Cash’s lyrics) comes originally from a film called A Song For Nine Elms. It’s short but gives the band the opportunity to play.
The album completes its cycle with two more traditionally structured tunes, ‘Marie Louise Napier’s/Patsy Seddon’s’ followed by the title track, another harp composition, and finally the full version of ‘Kind Sad Girl’.
I enjoyed Release on first listening and it’s grown on me since. There is an awful lot packed into its twelve tracks.
Artist’s website: www.frayathomsen.com
‘For The Water Protectors’ – solo live: