EP: Ailsa Tully – Holy Isle review

by Gemma Laurence

Ailsa Tully writes songs that make you feel like the main character. Constructing picturesque soundscapes of wavering synth pads and sweeping orchestral arrangements, the Welsh songwriter immerses her listeners in the indie film-worthy world that is Holy Isle. 

Characters flit in and out of each song painted in impressionistic hues, and memories of lost love are conjured up with vivid imagery. All the while, Tully’s ethereal soprano floats through each song, whisper-light yet loaded with emotion – carrying the weight of her diary-esque lyrics with a poignant poeticism. A record to play as you’re gazing wistfully out of the window of a train throttling down the coast, or walking down a beach on a grey day, Holy Isle has a cinematic touch that sets the scene beautifully. 

Vulnerable and tender, the four songs that make up Holy Isle explore heartache with a retrospective mindfulness. Reflective as opposed to reactive, the collection of songs ruminate on how a relationship unraveled, but do so with a rare kind of compassion and trust. Wishing the best for a once-was lover, Tully sings an elegy for the past without demanding answers or closure. It is this kind of zen acceptance that sets the tone for the record – sitting in a space of contemplation and credence that what happened was meant to happen. 

A compact collection of songs, there is no a filler. While the catchy opening tracks Greedy and Sheets set the head-swaying tempo for the EP, the latter half of the record (Holy Isle and Your Mess) slows down and expands into a dream-like atmospheric space. Reminiscent of Gia Margaret’s analogue synth-driven experimental folk, or Squirrel Flower’s recent stripped back work, Ailsa Tully creates a world with her music that is both minimalistic and immersive. Chock-full of choral harmonies and unexpected textures and noises (taps of texting, cuckoo songs, cars accelerating down the interstate), the sound design of Holy Isle pulls you so deeply into Ailsa Tully’s world that you will be startled when the record stops spinning. 

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