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Martha Tilston Martha Tilston
Album: Nomad
Label: Squiggly
Tracks: 10

Martha’s last album was the self-confessedly “folky” The Sea, recorded back in 2014. A by-product of the period of recording that album was a parallel series of ad-hoc impromptu late-night sessions (at a cliffside cottage in Cornwall) whereby Martha would be joined by her regular collaborators Matt Tweed, Nick Marshall and Tim Cotterell and occasional friends to let creativity flow around loose jamming and experimentation on newly formed songs that Martha had been working on. The energy and spontaneity of the “playing with the night souls” eventually led, after a two-year hiatus due to other commitments, to the revisiting of these sessions and their “abandonment” into final release as The Sea’s more wayward (originally unplanned) “sister album”, Nomad.

It’s a telling journey through the landscapes of nature and the mind, largely from the perspective of the travelling musician/artist: a restless and ever-wandersome procession that’s beautifully reflected in the stunningly apt artwork that should by rights win awards on its own merit (notwithstanding the lovely music within). Nomad Blood represents our status within the universe as the eternal wanderer, unsure whether we are to stay forever outside looking in, never content with the stillness for which we yearn. Reflection is managed both through song and storytelling. Martha has just the right kind of voice to express these sometimes contradictory impulses, and she’s on compelling, quaversomely confident form here. While Matt, Nick and friends conjure delicious, deft yet strongly characterised aural backdrops that, while initially acoustic-guitar-based, deploy inventive touches of electric guitar, violin, mandolin, banjo, melodica, Appalachian dulcimer, bouzouki, bass and percussion kits to realise the special visionary qualities of Martha’s writing.

There’s an unearthly lushness to the shimmering string arrangement of Green Moon, mirroring Martha’s shifting-sands philosophy and pleading for guidance – the latter theme links onwards to Little Arrow’s desperate, altogether rockier climax. The reassuring dependence on Stories is conveyed with catchy sing-song pop-style momentum, while the musician/artist’s self-confidence in the face of the trials to gain acceptance are explored on adjacent songs Climbing Gates and Fish Tank. The elemental experience depicted in the delicately voiced Blue Pearl provides the ideal resting place for our meditations at the close of the disc.

While Martha’s music remains listener-friendly, its potent expression of her lyrical and philosophical concerns through intense, creatively crafted music adds more than just another dimension to its appeal, enrapturing the listener from the outset and drawing him/her along on the essentially nomadic journey of self-discovery. What an appealing proposition.

David Kidman