An EP can represent so many things to a musician, it can be a first furtive step to test the waters or a thrilling aside in a lengthy back-catalogue, it can be a snap-shot of the here-and-now, or a tantalising glimpse of a future yet to be realised. For Welsh songwriter Ailsa Tully, her debut EP, Holy Isle, is somehow past, present and future all wrapped up into one, and it’s only four tracks long. After some understandable delays, Holy Isle was released last week via Dalliance Recordings, a reminiscence on a break-up, yet one that is presented with calm contemplation, impassioned melodrama and spite-filled kiss-offs left maturely at the door.
If Ailsa Tully’s emotions seem to have hit a place of harmony on Holy Isle, it’s a sensation matched too in the music. There’s a sense of push-and-pull the in songs on Holy Isle, a collaborative compatibility between past and present, as Ailsa fuses the choral harmonies of her church choir youth to a distinctly modern bedroom-pop production style. Ailsa is quick to credit her return to her first instrument, the cello, for some of the more creative moments here. Throughout she fuses the instruments natural weighty tones with a sense of freedom and creativity that comes only with truly knowing your instrument of choice, at times it is barely recognisable, as Ailsa re-imagines what the instrument can do. I could wax lyrical about the individual tracks on Holy Isle, the insistent bass-line of Greedy, the title track’s jazzy meandering rhythms and luxurious string flourishes, yet it is when taken as a whole it truly works wonders. As the EP ends on Your Mess, the guitar-line is initially adorned by bird-song, yet slowly the track’s intensity and location seem to shift, the rural idyll replaced by the sound of a car rushing by as if whisking the whole EP away to pastures new. Holy Isle feels a deeply personal record, a collection used to process Ailsa’s place in a world that seems at once to rush by and then hang for hours on a single tiny thought, the serenity of the Welsh countryside, the rush of the motors taking her off to big city living. The sound of life being led, influenced by memories of the past, shaped by dreams for the future, all captured in four perfect songs that might just be the start of Ailsa’s most exciting journey yet.
FTR: For those who don’t know – who is Ailsa Tully?
A musician that sounds like she should probably be a character in Lord of the Rings.
FTR: What can you remember about your first show?
Carrying a fragile 18th century Cello across London. Disappointment. Backache.
FTR: Why do you make music? Why not another art form?
My knitting isn’t up to scratch.
FTR: What can people expect from the Ailsa Tully live show?
Welsh gals, strange bass technique, soothing harmonies and hopefully some jolly japes.
FTR: What’s next for Ailsa Tully?
A tour around the UK with ‘Another Sky’, followed by performing at some festivals and then hopefully heading to a remote island to start working on an album!
They Listen To…
Sam Evian – Next To You
SZA – Good Days
Billie Marten – Creature of Mine
Nansi Richards – Wyres Megan
Julianna Barwick – Inspirit