Album Review: Caoilfhionn Rose – Truly

Caoilfhionn Rose – Truly

Alternative Folk | Ambient | Jazz


Beauty doesn’t always leap out at you. Often the most arresting art isn’t the kind that erupts into a towering plume of vibrant colour right at your feet, it’s the kind that calls upon you to go out of your way. Sometimes you have to veer off the well-worn path through the forest, keeping quiet and remaining patient, before you can hear the birdsong and get an intimate look at the wonder of nature. The more you invest, the greater the reward. In music terms that’s the album that slowly unfurls over the course of a number of listens, the album that requires your full attention, the album that almost beckons you to hold your breath at times so you can take stock of all the little subtleties in the stillness. 

In a nutshell, it’s an album like Truly. On first listen the new release from Manchester based singer/songwriter Caoilfhionn Rose (pronounced “Keelin”) feels like a pretty straightforward ambient affair; a gentle meditative expanse, a simple, soothing rise and fall to offer a comforting moment of quiet. But after a while you reach another level, like being in a sensory deprivation tank. Fully immerse yourself and soon enough you’ll see all the colours and shapes begin to dance around you. Opening track, the aptly named ‘Flourish’, sets the scene with its soft thumping beat and dreamy placid guitar tones recalling rhythmic waves on a tropical sea, and gradually all the electronic details begin to build up like all the dazzling denizens of a kaleidoscopic coral reef emerging one by one. The dreamy spaced-out sprawl of ‘Fireflies’ is reminiscent of Radiohead at their most atmospheric, while ‘Readiness Is All’ sees Caoilfhionn’s haunting vocals take centre stage as the lead instrument. ‘To Me’ has the kind of sparse haunting soundscape that will delight fans of Lanterns On The Lake, the understated bass on ‘Tubercular Skies’ offers a gorgeous extra dimension to the track, and the expressive drum work and entrancing piano tone of ‘Hold Your Own’ add an elegant dash of jazz into the mix. 

Attention to detail is this record’s greatest asset. While some tracks like the austere acoustic closer ‘All That Light’ are definitely missing the spark, for the most part this release loves surprising you in subtle little ways. A stunning blend of jazz, electronica and psychedlica permeates through the atmospheric folk backdrop, feeling eclectic without ever being jarring and disrupting the mood, like catching glimpses of colourful fairy lights through the haze on a still foggy evening. Caoilfhionn’s ethereal voice is a key part of building the soundscape, although sometimes to the detriment of diction on tracks like ‘Truly’ and ‘To Me’. Feeling takes precedence over clarity, with lyrics sometimes feeling obscured in the process. It’s a real shame as we are gifted with some poignant and striking lines in moments of clarity – like “It’s better to be honest than to pretend. Who are you? Do you know yet?” on ‘Every Waking Minute’ and “Time – it’s a funny thing. Why does everything have to be so hard?” on album highlight ‘Paths’. This is an album who’s charms will likely escape those unwilling to give it their full attention, but those that do will enjoy a release that is truly sublime.