Fionn Regan's The Meeting Of The Waters shows an artist in sync with the universe

Nominated for the prestigious Mercury Prize for his 2006 debut The End Of History, Fionn Regan has been lauded for his sterling musicianship.
Nominated for the prestigious Mercury Prize for his 2006 debut The End Of History, Fionn Regan has been lauded for his sterling musicianship. PHOTO: TSUNENI AI/ABBEY

There is a grainy, dimly lit video on YouTube showing two men rehearsing a track called Abacus in a cafe in Berlin's Michelberger Hotel late last year. The guy on the left was American Justin Vernon, of acclaimed folk band Bon Iver. The one on the right, with the guitar, was Irishman Fionn Regan, whose song they were practising.

As it turns out, Vernon had earlier sampled the lyric "where the days have no numbers" from that song for his own track 00000 Million on his acclaimed 22, A Million album from last year. At the end of the rehearsal, Vernon stood up, walked over to Regan and gave him a hug. It was unexpected and moving.

The meeting of two kindred spirits who had never met before also gives us a hint as to where Regan's head is at.

Nominated for the prestigious Mercury Prize for his 2006 debut The End Of History, he has been lauded for his sterling musicianship. Inducted in 2009 into the Trinity College Literary Society, he was awarded a gold medal of honorary patronage for eroding "the boundaries between music and literature, with his lyrics always possessing the most beautiful poetry".

  • FOLK/ELECTRONICA

  • THE MEETING OF THE WATERS

    Fionn Regan

    Tsuneni Ai/Abbey

    4/5 stars

And here is where his fifth album, The Meeting Of The Waters, comes in. Just like Vernon moving further from folk to electronica, Regan's latest also ventures into the strange hinterland where genres meld, birthing spaces. In an album of transcience, skins are shed and new hunger kindled.

"Ferns they will bend/and the moon it will send/its light down your collar," goes one luminous image in the album title track, as the song, about "turning over the ground and renewal", is braided with gauzy synthesizer.

There is something invigorating and even dangerous in Regan's limitless vista. Attuned to the elements, he is energised by the filaments.

Up Into The Rafters swoops up into the dark sky, as resonant voice scales into the ether, singing of swooning harbour lights and a loved one "carved into my arms/glass half-full and tiger scream/the comets crown your eyes".

It has the anthemic zeal of a song by, say, British band Elbow, but with an otherwordly curiosity that buoys spirits and opens minds.

Such is Regan's itinerant imagination. Accompanied by his trusty guitar, he is in sync with the universe. Whether tracing "your eyes across the broken wave/summers on your wing" (Turn The Sky Of Blue On) or swimming "at night with the moonlight on our skin" (Cape Of Diamonds), he can segue from soft to clarion cry and never lose that sense of wonder.

When the pace becomes glacial, he remains captivating. Euphoria, billed as a "winter driving-throughthe-mountains song", glistens with limpid wisdom. Gentle strums are foiled by fluvial synths that insinuate like serpentine incense.

Few musicians achieve the chill transcendence of Cormorant Bird, with him calmly singing over acoustic strings and a synth line that rises like horizon.

"You pulled a rainbow from my skull," he sings, adding quizzically, "and you said, look at that."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 19, 2017, with the headline 'In sync with the universe'. Print Edition | Subscribe