Like all the best music coming out of this country at the moment, Wyvern Lingo are difficult to categorise. ‘The Widow Knows EP’ features five songs, each one too experimental to be called pop, too energetic to be called folk and too complex to be called soul. And yet the EP contains all these elements and balances them inconspicuously, so that the effect is almost like spinning a colour wheel, with all the influences blending into one unique whole.
Harmonising is the overriding theme of the record, the most obvious example being the way the three ladies who make up the band blend their voices throughout the five songs. But this harmonising also manifests itself in the songwriting, as if they all have the same idea of what Wyvern Lingo is and so write their music to those specifications.
This would be why none of the three band members’ identities seem to dominate the music, and why those disparate influences are present; they cut away whatever doesn’t crossover with their bandmates’ tastes, as they write for the band rather than the individual. And that’s no bad thing, after all, The Beatles started out writing that way too.
Of course we judge the worth of the method by the quality of the music and second track Fairytale gives a great example of how Wyvern Lingo’s setup effects its songs. The singing is as forceful as some of the most optimistic pop music of the early 2000s. Indeed about five minutes into the song when we hear the chorus of “and does it make you feel stronger”, it comes with the same triumphant vigour as an “I’m a survivor/I’m not gon’ give up”. But there’s an emotional depth to the song, a rawness to the thumping of the drums or the strumming of the guitar that makes it feel like Destiny’s Child if they were willing to get their hands dirty once in a while.
There’s a creative journey present on ‘The Widow Knows EP’, starting with the title track, in which each of the three band-members is given a verse to sing leading into the chorus, each one performed with subtle rhythmic, melodic and tonal differences. However by the time we get to final track – the half-anthem/half-lament Used – these individual traits start to declare themselves at times within the same bar. As the song repeats itself, the focus shifts. The line “go back to her running/that’s my advice” at first appears forceful, almost thoughtless, but towards the end of the song when it recurs it is followed by a piercing silence, followed by “you won’t find me running after/I can’t be broken twice”, which seems full of regret and reticence, and on that note the EP concludes.
The EP is packed with these kinds of moments, with tones and emphases that you feel may disappear on a repeat listen. Towards the end of Tricks, the line “but you know me/better than anyone” hits a tone that approximates ‘Watertown’-era Sinatra. That’s over a Hiatus Kaiyote-style beat which develops into a breakdown somewhere between Coltrane and Echo & The Bunnymen. Clearly these sounds represent the surface of three deep musical understandings, which suggests that there is much the band have yet to explore and reveal.
Wyvern Lingo have crafted a strong and coherent EP, bookended by two genuinely brilliant and memorable songs. What rests between these two songs contains moments of brilliance, but what they reveal most explicitly is that Karen Cowley, Saoirse Duane and Caoimhe Barry have a long and prosperous musical voyage ahead of them. ‘The Widow Knows EP’ is a fine place from which to launch it.
You can exclusively listen to ‘The Widow Knows EP’ here on GoldenPlec tomorrow (Wednesday 13th August).
Wyvern Lingo play our next #GoldenBeck gig in the Workmans Club on Thursday 21st August. See all information here.