Mary Epworth - Dream Life
There’s a bold line drawn from the past to the present on this luminous, genre-spanning debut. With a distinctly psychedelic edge, but also (on the likes of ‘Sweet Boy’ and ‘Come Back to the Bough’) parading undeniably folky colours, Dream Life marries its roots to studio experimentation. Unexpectedly outré arrangements follow suit, banjo atop screwy electronica and spare, uncompromising percussion. And yet, all this disparity doesn’t work against the collection as a whole. Anchored by A Voice that would send Will.I.Am’s chair spinning, these songs withstand with ease the exposure of their often unforgiving arrangements.
Minus a lyric sheet, Epworth’s narratives might appear a little opaque but meet her halfway and her mode of expression fills the gap. Her vocals are warm, deep and unshowy. Her words are elegantly simple but smartly dramatised: “Until the golden voices, they adorn me / I’ll wear the choir like a robe,” she sings on ‘Two For Joy’ and you just know. Her broad palette manifests itself in the leap from the devotionals of ‘Sweet Boy’ to the closing skewed anthemics of ‘Ray of Sunlight’. If ‘Trimmed Wing’ pulses with a battlefield thrum that recalls June Tabor or the sparky re-inventions of Thea Gilmore, ‘Ray of Sunlight’ builds with the day-glo abandon of EMA’s ‘Red Star’. The neo-power balladry of single ‘Long Gone’ pulls the rug somewhat: this is a collection that fizzes and twists with uncompromising disregard for categorisation. Recorded in a snowed-in Norfolk barn but mixed in LA, it's a record of opposites and extremes, engaging the brain and reviving the heart. All told, Dream Life is exceptional and unique. With a voice that could defrost an icecap, Epworth slaps the pastoral idyll around for fun.