Hill Flower Fog by Emily A. Sprague is a record that soothes, maybe offers hope. Its release pattern is interesting too, probably as the action completes a circle, looking, maybe, to reignite some trust in how we experience the passage of time. Brought out on vinyl at the beginning of this turbulent year, its digital cousin is now there, ready to be employed on all devices. No, I am not looking to “sell across platforms”, rather to reflect that Hill Flower Fog really does work like a pocket elixirr instead of a release on a hip label, to be used whilst slumped on a couch or to soundtrack a morning walk.
The job of Emily A. Sprague’s music, it seems, is to help us find a sense of peace in the everyday, a mission where patience is the helpmeet. In this regard, ‘Moon View’ is a deceptive opener. Despite its innocuous nature, it’s a clever piece in the way that it presages much of what is to come in terms of mood and also in its way of disarming the listener. You can’t get restless or irritable with a track like ‘Moon View’. You may miss out on its charms a few times, especially when you first sink into the reverie that the rest of this record conjures up. But you soon come to accept its presence as an introduction to a beautiful, calm 40 minutes or so.
The music on Hill Flower Fog often perfectly embodies the song titles. ‘Horizon’, with its rapidly tumbling or rising clusters of notes creates an instantly hopeful feel, akin to the sound of small birds singing on the wing. Seemingly fragmentary these momentary note clusters start to create, by dint of repetition, the most charming sense of reason and acceptance.The odd wobble in the sequencing doesn’t go amiss either. ‘Mirror’, a beautiful and gentle gesture of ascending notes (ones that seemingly dilate before you can register them), accurately reflects the floating sensations of staring at a pane of glass, or seeing whatever is captured there. ‘Woven’ is a strangely airborne piece of music, again built on repetitive motions and passages of notes that nevertheless focuses our attention on the miniscule, seeing detail through a sharpened filter and being able to drown out the noise elsewhere. ‘Rain’ should be self explanatory in the context of what’s gone before, what is nice here is the slight drop in key, which allows a weird hinterland to form just out of sight, but one that still calms and enchants. Last track ‘Star Gazing’, for some unknown reason (maybe it’s the synth squeaks and squawks), reminds me of the closer on another monster of calm, ‘In Ewigkeit’ on Cluster’s Sowiesoso. Its funny-sad properties are similar, for sure. It’s very difficult not to be utterly lost, and feel becalmed, in these timeless passages of sound.
I’m not sure why a caustic, grizzled old reviewer like me is continually charmed by this simple, winning, empathic record. But it certainly works a powerful spell and you’d be missing “something” if you didn’t listen in.