Power straddles the line between political and personal

Brigid Mae Power sings in Don't Shut Me Up (Politely) as a woman who has been recently emancipated from years of being gas-lit and mansplained to.
Brigid Mae Power sings in Don't Shut Me Up (Politely) as a woman who has been recently emancipated from years of being gas-lit and mansplained to.PHOTO: TOMPKINS SQUARE

FOLK

THE TWO WORLDS Brigid Mae Power

Tompkin Square

4 stars

It is a stroke of luck that Irish singer Brigid Mae Power's second album, The Two Worlds, has come out in a time of the #MeToo movement, when sexual politics is under intense scrutiny.

The second track, Don't Shut Me Up (Politely), was written when the single parent of a young son returned to her hometown of Galway and "was feeling and noticing again the repressive and oppressive environment" there.

"You were trying to convince me that I was somebody, somebody that I'm definitely not," she sings to all the men who have abused her, with such eerie calmness.

The music, meanwhile, can be described as goth folk, underpinned by ominous drums and gnarled riffs ricocheting against the midnight walls of one's consciousness. It is a warring anthem which could have soundtracked an episode of fantasy series Game Of Thrones, complementing the chorus of wronged women (and men). She sings as a survivor who has been chained and only recently emancipated from years of being gas-lit and mansplained to.

The steeliness, and indeed restlessness, in her tenor reminds one of her musical hero, Joni Mitchell, whose lyrical shifts are guided by jazzy inflections; as well as the timeless excursions of pastoral contemporaries such as Marissa Nadler and Robin Holcomb.

To this pair of ears, her brand of bruised folk draws on the well of tradition - its mystical beauty and rigour - and, at the same time, taps the modern subversion of rock, jazz, blues and, yes, metal.

Brigid Mae Power sings in Don't Shut Me Up (Politely) as a woman who has been recently emancipated from years of being gas-lit and mansplained to.

The Two Worlds, hence, is well named, straddling the line between the political and the personal. Co-produced by her husband, neoclassical composer Peter Broderick, the album navigates these waters sensitively.

Listen to the softest songs and witness the opening of her heart. Gentle cymbal tips skirt around beseeching ivories in the confession So You've Seen My Limit. Her voice flits at the higher register, wondering what lies yonder. It's a delicate emotional juggernaut.

Lightly strummed fiddles and sparse piano shore up the disarming ballad On My Own With You.

Is My Presence In The Room Enough For You? feels like a ghostly visitation, with each echo of the piano sending chills down one's spine. She is rediscovering ways of connection on her own terms.

Whereas other more headstrong vocalists may bray and thump, Power prefers a more low-key approach.

How her voice traces serpentine dips and highs in Down On The Ground, as if withholding a long-drawn breath. The surface, however, cannot contain her ambition. She mines and mines, searching for a deeper honesty, whatever it takes.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 15, 2018, with the headline 'Power straddles the line between political and personal'. Print Edition | Subscribe