I’ve never been to the Orkney Islands. In fact my only reference before this has been the other two of Erland Coopers albums about, and based on, the Islands where he lives. After an album about the birds that inhabit the island with Solan Goose, and the sea which surrounds the islands in Skule Skerry, this time he focuses on the people and the actual Islands in Hether Blether, the third and final album of the trilogy.
Part instrumental, with the strings often drawing out raw emotion from the music, this sort of folk based cinematic music that’s surrounded by stories from the locals, sounds of the Islands and, on occasion, Cooper himself. It’s as if Cooper is presenting through the three albums the Islands rather than himself, and there’s a realisation that although its his art, he’s actually only a small part of it.
Such is the emotional brevity of the music, that sometimes the stories and songs become a side-show. Rather than distract, it merely makes the listener revisit, and delve into them further, past the almost indecipherable titles and into their world. The ‘songs’ that feature Cooper in full flow, such as single Peedie Breaks demand attention but don’t stand out.
Although much of the album plays out in similar mode, the textures and melodies that roll over you, decorated largely with strings but enhanced with a choral figure here and a piano there – listen to the devastatingly lovely title track for the best example, means its a journey of an album rather than a set of songs.
By the time that we reach the introverted Where I am is here, a typically emotive little coda to three albums on the Islands he clearly loves, then it’s difficult not to share the love. Although I’ve never been there, I want to. And should you need convincing, then listen to Hether Blether, because surely there won’t be a more affecting, beautiful album of 2020.
Hether Blether is out now via Phases.