Album: Caoilfhionn Rose – Truly review

by Paddy Kinsella

On her second long player, the Manchester based songwriter dabs her thumb across a spectrum of genres, and shows mastery of her craft

When Caoilfhionn Rose’s debut, Awaken, arrived in 2018, she seemed an odd fit alongside the fusion of jazz, ambient piano and experimental music that makes up Matthew Halsall’s Gondwana Records. On her follow-up though – the sublime Truly – the Manchester songwriter pulls off an unlikely feat. She borrows from each of these genres without it feeling overwhelming – dabbing her thumb in the paint and adding touches that enhance rather than take away from the wondrous songwriting at the album’s very core.

Rachel Sermanni, Building Instrument, Alabaster dePlume, Hania Rani and Broadcast are unlikely bed fellows, but it’s these artists Rose lists as the influences behind the record she co-produced alongside Durutti Column’s Kier Stewart. Truly makes unlikely combinations entirely logical though – Sermanni’s songwriting echoes in the pearls of wisdom that fall effortlessly from Rose like apples from trees, while the ambient, experimental patchworks she swirls around her words nod tastefully to the work of Alabaster dePlume and Hania Rani.

Though the songs do stand-up individually, it’s as a whole where the record has its biggest impact. Yes, its movements are many, but they occur with significant ease like a swimmer unknowingly crossing territories. There’s also a feeling of fantasy that imbues the record; that lost-in-the-woods type wonderment when, for a moment, you stop searching for the sound of the road.

Rose’s wispy, delicate vocal is another vital part of Truly’s eco-system. It’s easy to bring a room to silence when you’re furnished with a big voice – but commanding people’s attentions with a light, airy, vocal is much harder and far more impressive. And that is a stand-out feature of this collection. Not only does she use it as an instrument, ornamentally adding elegance to her gold-spun tapestries, but she also compels herself to soar to helium-like heights – most affectingly on Paths when hopelessly she cries, ‘Why does everything have to be so hard?’  

Truly establishes Rose as a true all-rounder: from her voice to her sonic palettes to her subtle co-production, this is an incredibly complete piece of work. It is a victory for the introvert, and it’s proof that quietly mastering your craft reaps extraordinary results. The loudest voice in the room doesn’t always win.

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