by Philip Moss
2019 has been a quite stupendous year for the long player format – with career best albums released by some of alternative music’s greats, alongside spellbinding debuts that have stopped us in our tracks. The EP, however, is an under appreciated concept. But it’s one that Swiss songwriter, Janine Cathrein aka Black Sea Dahu, has nailed on No Fire In The Sand.
Moving from fluttering folk guitars and Cathrein’s affecting voice – which somehow feels agreeably familiar – Rhizome displays her ear for pop sensibilities from the off – digging its roots deep into your conscious in that magical way the best songwriters do. Glittering synths blossom, seemingly, out of nowhere – and bristle against stuttering drums and her words of irrationality and doubt.
The doubt turns into loneliness on Thaw, but turns back to doubt on the title track. And just as consistent as the thematic touchstones are, so is the collection’s sonic palette: vocally, Catherin flits between Jeff Buckley and Nick Drake, while musically she references moments of beauty you would expect from Sufjan Stevens, which on Demian grow into a splendour of Sigur Rós-esque post rock imaginings. On the final track, How You See Your Anger, the instrumentation doesn’t build beyond guitar, gentle shaker and accordion, but the Catherin really lets go of her voice – soaring on the collection’s pièce de résistance.
So don’t let the brevity put you off – No Fire In The Sand compromises five masterful tracks… although the greedy part of me still pines for it to be four or five cuts longer.
Secret Meeting score: 84