In Constellation by West My Friend
Fall Knows opens with an arresting, timeless, pure a cappella vocal. The surprise appearance of the unaccompanied missive to open the album with a dynamic rise and fall and a sprinkle of jazz scatting in the centre is bookended by a sudden stop. In between are musings about the cyclical nature of nature and the seasons. It suggests a subtle message: this, too, shall pass, because it always does.
Salt Water continues the eco theme. An aural assault soon dies down, but that’s just a temporary reprieve. Soon there’s choral backing to match the expansive vocal. The lyrics mix timeless folk imagery with modern day bewilderment and distraction: “I am afraid of passing by grace/head full of bees and heart preoccupied”
Next we get close harmonies for a duet about love over the seasons: “love is something that you tend as it grows/and fold in to sleep as fall comes and summer goes.” It’s as poppy and light as they’ve sounded so far but it’s still highlighted by string led orchestral flourishes.
Shape of Home returns to vocally led, nature themed tunes and explores what it means to be inclined towards nature in a time inclined against a direct personal relationship or easy access to it: “I don’t have a river to call my own…I don’t have mountains to hold me still.” She’s not done searching though: “I just need memories I want to keep and a little trust in the falls.” The instrumentation is strong and moody. It’s rather poetic, in fact: “there’s a hole in the shape of a home in my heart and I know you know I hope to fill it with you.”
Old Song is saying something when the themes and genres evident on the entire EP reflect those more common in the 1920s or earlier. She sings the praises of her musical predecessors in a song with its own melodic jazz cred. Thinking of more recent times, the jazz/pop crossover is reminiscent of Fiona Apple’s When The Pawn… album.
All These Things sees the band looking back on more recent history with memories of grandma’s love expressed through sharing food. There are horns and a joyful richness, like the big reveal and new equilibrium of a movie.
The album ends with An Education, which takes an interesting approach; regrets are memories with the benefit of hindsight having learned better, therefore regrets are positive because they speak to a more positive future.
In Constellation is a layered, complex, interesting piece. Exploring themes of integration with the natural world and realigning human relations. These things have underpinned folk songs for centuries, yet sonically there’s just as much influence from modern jazz and orchestral worlds.