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Unseen
Artist: Ellie Williams
Label: Sellaband
Time: 11 tracks / 49 mins
 
I came to this fan-funded disc through hearing Williams perform a superb solo set with piano at the Greenbelt festival. I was struck by the way she so deftly and expressively used her voice, soaring high and strong one minute, whispery smooth the next, as each line required. 

Her writing is as strong as her singing. These are songs that have been lived through and sometimes you are left intensely curious about what the back-story is. They are honest and emotional enough to be just the things that some will need for a particular situation. It feels like she has come out of a state of depression, but can still remember how it felt. Her approach is decidedly empathetic at times and highly visual at others. “You and Me” is the jaunty “Hey, we’re not rich, but we have each other” mood-breaker that shows the range in her writing.

“Broken” conveys a sense of being brought by others to a place of near collapse. It is one of the tracks where her phrasing is strikingly reminiscent of Kate Bush, an acknowledged influence. (Live, she covered the artist’s “A Woman’s Work” and Williams’ account stood shoulder-to-shoulder in quality with Bush’s version).

Some songs are slight. “Don’t Give Up on Me” is a personal plea to her husband to keep on loving her, even when she gets it wrong. It is easy to relate to, but is one of a thousand similar works. “No Lies” feels similarly generic.

A few tracks are real standouts,though. “Firefly” has a memorable tune and a well-judged lyrical opacity. Another highlight, Fin’s Song” – a touching litany of hopes for her baby nephew – was inspired by seeing him sleeping. 

Laugh with all your lungs until it hurts some/
Stand with all your strength, though it might take some/
Believe in all your dreams and you might make some/
Love with all your heart and it may break some.
It is the title track that most powerfully grabs the attention and does that neck-hair thing. It captures the feeling of being invisible, hurt and confused. To little more than a restrained solo piano backing, her remarkable harmonies and sliding vocals can stop you in your tracks.
 
There are some tasty acoustic guitar flourishes on “Found,” but don’t expect psychedelic instrumental coloring; the emphasis in this set is on Williams’ voice and her songs. This music can get lost in the background on a casual listening; they are the sort that works best with headphones, a sofa and a flickering fire. 

Download:        Broken, Firefly, Fin’s Song, Unseen.
Limited Edition: 3 extra tracks and exclusive content

Derek Walker

 
 
 
 
 

 
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