Artist/poet/musician/radio presenter Jude Cowan Montague invited a host of musicians to donate or create tracks for this album, the proceeds of which will be donated to Women’s Refuges. Her Indoors is a mix of storytelling and atmospheric invention, veering from wild anxiety to well-wishing strains. Eerie soundscapes such as Paula Garcia Stone’s Comfort with its oceanic crashing and baby mewing is solitary, threatened and menacing, whilst Flavia Goa’s Walk Happy uses acoustic guitar riffs with edge, to create a songless piece for the voiceless, whilst Sally Child has wild strummed guitar and keyboard to celebrate the mute in Sunstreet Song. These contrast with songs with poignant lyrics: ‘Today I clipped my wings/Love lost in the mess of things’ from Ruby’s Spring is Sprung, Crumpsall Riddle’s Dear Marjorie whistled and sung to organ: ‘3rd December 1945/Post early for Christmas’, the jazz trumpet of Bernadette Reed’s Behind You: ‘We fool ourselves and we believe/Resistance offers us some reprieve’, rousing ones, such as Ode to Sleep’s Call to Action with its metal: ‘Are you willing to break the system?/And save us all/Consider your call to action!’. Or contemplative ones like ‘Live like the books on your shelves’ in Kath Tait’s Books on your Shelves.
Some consider imprisonment like Blt63 with Wolf: ‘Girl in a Cage, Always kept this way’ or Helen Mcookerybook’s Home Prison: Dreading every footstep…’, others celebrate escape and freedom, Naz&Ella’s Freedom set to guitar and female voices about a girl running from abusive parents to Toronto: ‘Today I can proudly say/I make my own decisions’ and Alumna’s Peach, a Rock n Roll defiant anthem, ‘I’m not what you want me to be/Coz I don’t need you’. The Brecht and Weill meandering of Kirsten Baum’s Stiffs on the Green, Viv Corringham’s Airburst with its Shaman chanting, a spell against violence, or the fairytale layering of Debra Watson’s Red Shoes with its ‘Poor little match girl there’s never enough heat’ a sung story conflating The Little Match Girl with the Red shoes. In Yuen Po Street Catherine Clover records outside, with birds singing, sieves shaken, Chinese men talking, bringing a bright exterior inside. Eileen Gogan’s ballad John is well wishing and calming, as is Bloom de Wilde’s Medicine of Purpose with its ‘Sleep like roses/Worries left behind’ to assuage pain.
Extensive styles are drawn on, with reggae angst fused with French recitative in Lou Barnell’s Rex, Laura Hill’s Insider creating menacing space age riffs, Lola de la Mata’s Queens of Drag where digital voices bleat, groan, chant and haunt to Flamenco clapping, or Xylitol’s Slow Afternoon where a beating heart thumps to anxious clanging, awaiting explosion. But it is not all peril Quiche my Ass offers Lady Rhubarb with its funny upbeat tempo, Monika Tobel’s Life is a Ceremony is a musical collage shot through with Mother Earth constituents, I Doris gives us Wonderwomen with admiration for the hundred of roles women play in the world and Louise Whitham’s Garibaldi Biscuits is mentallness on biscuits to plucked accompaniment.
Studio recipes cooked inside, from the deadly A’Bear’s Throw Magic tossing drumming and scratching; Jude Cowan Montague’s electric organ and wordless singing on Fairlight; Isnaj Doj playing a solemn flute piece over an incessant beat in Pointing Forwards; Kamra Obscura fuses furious rhythm with Patti Smith style chanting in Hidden Torrent and Pauline Sewards’ Spirographed in which she interweaves scraps of sentences ‘Hard return…Our Bodies…Birthday’ for unique phrasing; Rita Braga’s Helicoptero is a xylophonic melange both whispered and sung. The longest track on the album, Viridian Ensemble’s Camra, offers 23 minutes waving with voices, percussion, instruments, leaping from barely a whistle to clamour, woven with sobs, hiccups, to deeply unsettle.
Ingrid Plum uses a list of names repeated in Smile Kill the Angel: ‘In a society where every woman is weighed/I’ll listen/I’ll nod/I’ll smile’, Leonheart/Tigersonic tell a story in Smash up the Clocks balladic, despite its title, Unity ft Lou Bams&Yazzmean go for ‘Says he loves me/ Says he loves me not/Says he loves you/ But he loved you not’ in Daisies, whilst Bettina Schroeder in her spoken word Baby Doll asks: Who can she call?/Anybody out there at all?/ Crisis hits/Nothing fits’ and Pelican Assemble jazz out: ‘You got me wrapped round your plastic head…’ in the eponymous Plastic Head. Mc Driweave in May 4th comments on kids stuck indoors with screens and nothing else like a concerned Social Worker bidding parents to take their children outside, as Isolda sings: ‘Burn like fire/Hotter than the sun/Chase those demons…’ in her ballad Winter. Plaintively Hazel iris plays the accordion to Candle: ‘Someone melted my candle’.
Some react to the time of year, Ieva Dubova’s This Spring a slow moving piano piece presaging troubled times, Susanna Ferrer’s So for solo violin; atonal, uncomfortable and scratchy. Kate Waterfield, in Birds of the Garden, sings an unaccompanied ballad on the birds all around her at this time of year. Others go for comfort, such as Tigersonic ft Aref Durvesh in Liberty Hall a percussion track that is both soothing and smart, but Valerie Pearson goes for full tilt horror movie in La Hassan with its echoing riffs invoking the terrors of – Who’s behind the door? Who’s there? – in her shivers-up-the-spine work. Whereas Katherine Seaton’s Sam’s Theme from Hidden People is a full orchestral piece that manages both lyricism and insistence. 47 artists giving their best for some of those most badly effected by this pandemic. Put your hands in your pockets people!