wed 17/08/2022

CD: Mara Carlyle - Floreat | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Mara Carlyle - Floreat

CD: Mara Carlyle - Floreat

Rescued from three years on the shelf, this may be amongst 2011's best

It opens quietly, with swelling strings that evoke Mendelssohn's Fingal's Cave. After they give way to a jazzy percussion and wordless vocal interplay, Carlyle declares, “I used to sleep/ Too many secrets to keep”. Floreat itself was almost a secret, almost not released. Thankfully, this dream of an album is now coming out. Seamlessly roaming across jazz, Cajun music, English classicism, show-tune styles and electronica, Floreat is one of this year’s benchmark releases.

Floreat was originally meant to be issued in 2008 by EMI under the title Nuzzle. It was shelved and it's taken until now for Carlyle to get the rights back. Getting to EMI was sinuous, but less painful than actually being on the label.

Carlyle first cropped up with the Warp Records’ electro-atmos duo Plaid, singing on three of their albums. She then worked with Matthew Herbert's Big Band, a musical marriage of electronica and jazz. Herbert put out her debut album, The Lovely, on his own label in 2004 - "Pianni", from the album, was later featured in the IKEA "cats" ad. She reworked Schumann on The Lovely before releasing an EP where she tackled Henry Purcell. Then EMI beckoned.

Expending the effort to prise Floreat from EMI’s grasp was worth it. Carlyle has said the pizzicato-infused shuffle “Pearl” was written as “Elizabethan Ska”. It sounds like Rodgers and Hart as if they’d been force fed Janelle Monáe's more normal moments (and Monáe came on the scene after Floreat was completed). “Away With These Self-Loving Lads” resets a 17th-century John Dowland lyric. “The Devil and Me” borrows Vaughan Williams and takes him to meet Hot Chip’s drummer. “Nuzzle” is intimate, its chamber strings bringing a subtle colour. The understated and filmic “King” is breathtaking. But whatever Carlyle’s jumping-off points, this is about emotive songs, framed beautifully and performed affectingly.

With EMI now behind Carlyle, hearing Floreat raises the question of what went wrong with the label. This great album sounds as fresh and compelling now as it must have done three years ago. Their loss is Carlyle’s gain. She’s in charge now.

Watch the video for Floreat’s "Weird Girl”



Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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It's "I used *not* to sleep".

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