‘Archipelago’, the latest collection of songs by British-born, Paris-Based Flora Hibberd is filled with drama but poetically gentle, the fragments of past love reimagined in the atmosphere of eery nature.
Stream: ‘Archipelago’ – Flora Hibberd
Flora Hibberd only has one EP to her name (The Absentee EP released in November last year) but she already has an instantly recognizable aura: a luscious darkness and vocal richness with lyrics that flow like poetry. Her latest offering is a continuation of this but with added sonic variation, the moods of the songs changing like the weather they mention.
And I hate to tell you coldly
But the melodrama suits me
And I don’t know how to do it
Any other way I promised you so
Many things so many ways
To live this life but with me
Or without me you will always be ok
– “Headlights”, Flora Hibberd
Atwood Magazine is proud to be premiering Archipelago, the latest musical offering by the Paris-based singer-songwriter (released 25 September). The opener, “ Headlights” is a build-up of drama, the lonesome country twang at the beginning rising in a crashing suspense. It’s full of a ghostliness, the fragments of a past love reimagined in the atmosphere of threatening nature. ‘Well the trees as I left you they started to burn/ And the wind it rose high and the reservoir burst/ And the signal came all down the line/ If you turn around now you might still have the time’ she sings, voice deep and foreboding. While “Headlights” follows in the same vein as previous previous releases “The Absentee” and “In Violence”, the proceeding tracks take on a slightly different tone. “I’m Gonna Leave You” for example starts with happy-go-lucky humming and raw strums of guitar. As Hibberd sings ‘I’m gonna leave you/ I’m gonna leave you/ I’ll be sailing in my burning ship forever,’ there’s a skip in her step as though any pain is intertwined with an element of make-believe.
“”I’m Gonna Leave You” started out slower, folky”, Hibberd explains to Atwood Magazine, ”but as we listened to songs by excellent French songwriter Bertrand Belin, notably “Porto” and “Le Colosse,” the song became bright and spacious, transforming the ostensibly ‘sad’ lyrics into something more ambiguous. I don’t think of it as a sad song anymore.” This continues with “It Will Come True,” the song is sparse, Hibberd’s overbearing vocals trailing melodically atop of the mediterranean-style plucks of a guitar.
“I wrote the words of “It Will Come True” without a melody in mind, unusually,” Hibbert says, “but turning it round with Viq, my producer, playing mounting chords on the guitar led to its strange mounting melodic line.”
Throughout Archipelago, references to natural landscapes are made- something that continues from The Absentee EP. But while the latter is more focused on moonlight and nightly wind, Archipelago is more picturesque. ‘O the sun rises softly/ On the other side/ Of that dividing line/ Always summer’ and ‘I watch you standing/ On the riverbank waving’ goes “I’m Gonna Leave You.” Similarly ‘It Will Come True’ consists of the lines ‘And I remember from underwater/ You were standing on the bank you were holding out your hand/ You were pulling me up/ You were pulling me in/ To your imperfect arms I sink again’ while “Deluge” (slow, piano-driven) is used as a kind of metaphor for love.
First it was a deluge then it was a tide
Pulled me out to nowhere pulled me from your side and I
Just held on tightly watched the hours pass as all the
Streams dried up and the sand it turned to glass
And nothing breaks the round horizon
Nothing troubles that great blue
It never came for me or you
Unendingly the wind pours straight across the sea
From the mouth of me
It is strange my love my love it is strange
Feeling different all the time but always the same
– ‘’Deluge’’, Flora Hibberd
Relationships and emotional feelings are a theme throughout, the sentiments seemingly made sense of when merged with gothic fiction-style narration. In the closing track, “Two Lines”, Hibberd muses ‘I never let go for good/ Never understood/ How to release you/ That I could/ That I should’ while the accompanying sound is a lethargic drum beat and classic guitar, a sad haunting quality that’s at the core of her work.
“I have a strong memory of writing “Two Lines” sitting at the bar of my local café, grateful to feel like something real (if not particularly important) was being captured,” Hibberd tells Atwood Magazine in regards to how her songs stem from the real. “The final version has a purity to it, lifted from Aldous Harding’s recordings, that continue to fascinate me. Her influence appears elsewhere on the record: you will hear a percussive cuica that we hit upon after listening to the John Parish produced “Weight of the Planets.”
Going alongside Archipelago is a book (published 25 September) of collected writings and lyrics, which will be sold in the likes of Shakespeare and Company. It’s the second printed offering by Hibberd, a collection of her lyrics distributed prettily via a typewriter produced booklet by Typewronger Books in March 2019, and is further emphasis on how music and literature can be blurred seamlessly when approached in certain ways.
Speaking of the making of this EP, Hibberd says “We recorded the songs over New Year’s in Viq’s parents’ house in Burgundy, filling a car with the (limited) gear that we used, and setting up a makeshift studio in a book-lined room. It was a wonderful experience of uninterrupted work in seclusion, starting early and finishing late, and one that we intend to repeat this coming winter. The songs of the next EP are already being written.” It’s a recording process setting that seems to encapsulate the final result, making the concept and aura natural in many ways.
Stream: ‘Archipelago’ – Flora Hibberd
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