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Christie ‘Fish out of Water’ – Review – Gaf Makin Jan 2021

Christie ‘Fish out of Water’ – Review – Gaf Makin Jan 2021

I’ve seen Christie play live more than a few times.  It tends to be solo, without the support of any backing musicians and in this way no musical stone can remain unturned and there are few places to hide.  She has developed a considerable following with her music and rightfully so.  Her songs are sophisticated but inclusive, thoughtful but never obtuse and her manner is outwardly shy but incredibly warm and welcoming.

It is very easy to sit and draw comparisons and it often becomes very personal and subjective, but it has to be said that she echoes the likes of Liz Fraser (Cocteau Twins), Polly Jean (PJ Harvey), Lucy Rose and Julianne Regan (All about Eve) amongst others.  Despite these references, there is nothing to suggest imitation, merely a continuation of the path laid by these artists.

Her new EP was recorded with her old friend Jack Hughes, who covered engineering, production and drum programming duties for the sessions (on a side note you should check out Jack’s film score work on Soundcloud (search for JRHughes) which is excellently atmospheric).  This seems to have created a comfortable workspace for Christie, particularly given the challenging themes (anxiety, guilt, depression, addiction and dementia) that are dealt with within the material and has meant that she has produced some of her best songs to date.

The inclusion of other talented musical friends has aided the process too, making me feel that despite these aforementioned issues, these hurdles that so many face the presence of friends makes it easier to find the path through periods of dark.

Matt Hilditch provided sound foundations for the tracks on bass, together with Harrison Wild (Guitar on ‘Comfortable Silence’), Adam Towers (Electric Guitar on all other tracks) and Nicole Delena and Amy Antrobus (on backing Vocals).

The EP opens with ‘Switching Addictions’ and sets the scene for the rest of the material, with a great guitar hook reprising through the track (courtesy of Adam Towers).  Christie weaves her way lyrically through, downbeat in delivery, delicate at odds with the currents buried within.  Service to others and their wellbeing at the expense of our own seems to bleed through. ‘No sleep can come until I make you smile’.  A perfect use of a gentle set up followed by a simple beat leads the track to rhythmic displacement and a conclusion that ‘I will make things right’ as her vocal lifts and soars.  This is all the more effective as this tool is never overused in her songs.

Following this is ‘Comfortable Silence’ a delicately picked out part set up with the metronomic ticking of the clock (punctuating the silence) provided by the drums.  This for me is her strongest vocal performance of the EP supported (there’s that word again) by some very subtle and effective instrumentation and effect.  She is at her most Kate Bush in this, with again, her ability to ride a vocal line and push it further within a heartbeat.  ‘I must be evil if I feel alright’ she sings reflecting ‘Why is it them instead of you? Who the hell gets to decide?’  Lyrically strong, intense but releasing and exhaustive listening down tethered by hope.

And so we move on to the title track (‘Fish out of Water’), which is by far my favourite given it’s passages, dynamics and understatedly strong musical bed.  It feels almost progressive in the short moment of time it affords, as so much ground is covered.  Dealing with the issues around what seems to be sadly all too common now, that of anxiety and the never-wished-for clinical conclusion of the panic attack.  It is still gentle in thought and the use of a synth string part combined with an ethereal vocal, closes the track perfectly.  She has made a considerable leap forward in her song writing craft and possibly been further nurtured in the studio by the scoring essence of Mr Hughes.

‘Letters’ brings us out of this revere, with a characteristic simplicity that is very hard to make work in a studio setting.  A string bed is in evidence early in the track together with a very Steve Rothery (Guitarist with the progressive rock band Marillion) sounding electric guitar part in the chorus.  Longing is the drive here, loss and loneliness (be it transient or permanent), plaintive is the tone and she leaves the track like a quickly dropped idea or as another pressure exerts on her psyche.  This is my least favourite track on the EP as its theme is somewhat overwhelming and resonates a little too close to home.

To close out the EP we have the very ‘folky’ ‘Sleep it Off’ with a great and oft ne’er used guitar solo.  Strong, bombastic and heartily needed to finish and give lift, almost cleansing the listener from the emotion of the previous track.  The notion of sleep being a place of solace for most of us is never heralded as we take it for granted but for some, insomnia is a familiar yet unwelcome bedfellow.  And with the rise of the repeated chorus, we are left hanging on the chord, reflecting on whether the object of the song with ever allow her to find peace.

Powerful yet understated, brutal in its rawness but encased for palatability, gentle in its delivery but dark in its tone.  This EP is possibly perfect for its time and inadvertently reflective of the personal struggle many face daily, despite it being written with none of these things in mind.

This writer can only hope that the gates can be safely opened to hear this material being played live soon.

Gaf Makin-January 2021

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