Album: Gia Margaret – Mia Gargaret review

by Philip Moss

Gia Margaret’s There’s Always Glimmer was an enchanting introduction to a very special artist. Unusual for a debut record, it felt like the finished article – the collated work of a songwriter whose voice and musicality appeared as one. Complete – in perfect harmony. But on hearing that her next record would come sans words and vocals, an unusual move for a songwriter looking to build upon their debut’s dent on the world, somehow it seemed like the most obvious thing for the talented Margaret to do – and given the nature of the time in which it will be let loose into the wild, it is a mesmerising proposition.

It is impossible to think of There’s Always Glimmer without thinking about her soft, strangely knowing voice. The young artist who somehow feels worldly wise. But something unusual happens here on opening track Apathy. As it ebbs and flows through groaning synths and flashes of piano, the yearning for her brilliant voice doesn’t come – such is the way that the track loops – leading your mind away from the hubbub of the real into something more reverent. In the distance, like that from a TV that’s been left turned on, buzzing away in the corner,  a sample from one of Margaret’s singing lessons fades into focus – ‘Even if it’s just doing something to get out of the body – rolling your shoulders, as you’re doing it. Just something to get out of it, to feel just free in your body and let things just come out the way they want’. It’s as much therapy as it is vocal coaching – in much the same way that this record is headspace as it is music.

On Body, the sample is the focus, as the narrator – spiritual philosopher, Alan Watts – guides us through the a self-help tutorial of abstract thought processes, and the curtails that can be placed onto the mind by its carrier. It encourages us to look internally, as panned synth flutterings are underpinned by warm drones – the whole experience like that of being wrapped inside a soothing cocoon.

As the record progresses, the synthetic nuzzles up against the ambient – field recordings of church bells softly bow on INWIW, and the waves lap on lake, while the theme of anxiety and social awkwardness drifts in again on barely there. In some ways, Mia Gargaret is like the doodles of a contemporary Jackson Pollock – throwing textures and tones at the canvas, and seeing what sticks. But at the same time, it doesn’t feel like an artist ‘dabbling’ – it is fully composed. Controlled. No two songs are the same – yet the whole thing is a moving song cycle that’s as one in harmony, mood and feel. Like her debut, complete.

Although an ambient record, Mia Gargaret is strangely not really background music – the soundtrack constantly moves – the ear is permanently led by the Chicagoan’s engaging arrangements, pillowy textures and fluttering melodies. But however you decide to let Mia Gargaret into your life, it will only enhance it. How you to choose to live with it is up to you.

Secret Meeting score: 85

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