|4||Returns Part 1||5:55|
|8||Returns Part 2 (fade)||4:10|
Post-punk/new wave hero Ann Margaret Hogan’s second album of solo piano and field recordings for Downwards is a box of subtle wonders, mastered by Veronica Vasicka and highly recommended if yr into Satie, Virginia Astley, Sarah Davachi.
A weight of history flows through Hogan’s keys with a stark intimacy, beautifully illuminated by naturally effortless, quietly grand songwriting. It’s a direct continuation of the landscaped themes and atavism of 2020’s ‘Honeysuckle Burials’ and the ‘Reversing Into Tomorrow’ collaboration with Karl O’Connor, vividly capturing the slow passage of time in a way that has quite literally compelled us to stop the relentless mind-grind for its 40 minute duration on more than one occasion.
After previous fixations on the iron age forts and burial mounds of the Clywdian Range in North Wales, Hogan transmutes the scenery of her more immediate locale, Oxton on The Wirral - from the cadence of its red sandstone landmark Thor’s Rock, to memories of its boating lake, for example - into a quiet yet ravishing suite inflected with traces of wildlife and industry recorded on long walks, all subsumed within a deep blue estuarial atmosphere silted by the strange reality of life in the current era, echoing the surreal, sunny period when the album was conceived.
A generation on from her pivotal work with spar Marc Almond and likes of Deux Filles and Nick Cave, and forty generations since The Wirral hosted, as she says “a Norse parliament at Thingwall”, Hogan weaves time and place into a reflective, funereal sort of parlour music, turning daily ambulations amid the gorse and under luminous skies into gorgeous, life affirming and intimate self expressions.
The eight pieces are mostly improvised and flow with a free, fleeting concision from the palpable warmth of ‘Forgotten Prelude’ and bluesy ache of ‘Fragile Elements’ to more funereal modes in ’Mesto’ and ‘Funeral Cargo’ suggestive of a Viking burial soundtrack. At its core, ‘Wolfswalzer’, a dedication to her one time collaborator and erstwhile Kraftwerk member Wolfgang Flür - is described by Hogan as “a simple waltz of coffee, food, friends and music”, and ‘Impromptu’ is the album’s slowest, soaked in the feeling of atmospheric immanence that defines the album’s timeless appeal. It’s an unspeakably moving album, words really do it no justice.