Thursday, May 30 2024

Born in Sweden, now a native of the City of Angels, aptly enough, Martina Armour is something of an enigma. Her haunting melodies cascade over a canvas of folk-infused rock creating a vast, beautiful panorama awash with late Autumnal tones. There is an unreserved melancholy throughout; a mourning for the falling leaves as the season passes and the light begins to fade. It transcends simple musical notation and melodic manipulation. ‘Love to Gold,’ is the very essence of this. The auditory equivalent to ‘The Garden of St. Paul’s Hospital’ by Van Gogh. 

The fact that Martina has received so little exposure is another vagary of the modern music business. Whether you agree or not, the indisputable fact is that streaming services (in their current guise) are draining the very lifeblood from this industry and unfortunately there is an over whelming probability that artists like Martina will sadly disappear without leaving the legacy, nor gaining the audience, nor commercial success their art deserves. 

That said, I feel a sense of duty to remind you all that there are artists out there who are worth emotional and physical investment. Go on Bandcamp, download her ‘What it Feels like’ EP. If she releases a CD or Vinyl, buy it. She’ll get more from that than 1,000 streams. Ok, I’ll stop soapboxing and return to the matter in hand. 

‘Love to Gold’ is a stunning, fragile and soulful piece that resonates with an innate sadness. With elements of Florence Welch, Beth Orton and Cassandra Jenkins, Martina’s voice instantly captivates with an almost Siren like quality. From the smooth Alto of the opening, through to the powerful Soprano of the final chorus, you do get the impression that Martina is happier in the upper register where her vocal inflections and effortlessly impressive graduated trills have the space to soar.

Her incredible grasp of melodic contour as an emotive device to support the narrative is brilliantly displayed throughout the piece and also used in a very nuanced manner to add subtext. It shows maturity as both singer and composer and ‘sells’ the narrative to good effect. Use of a slightly rising melodic contour within the opening verse on the words, “I don’t mind” implies an almost contradictory self-questioning element, which further supports the hopeless, resignation of the narrative.

The whole song functions, not only, because of Martina’s mesmerising voice and heartfelt narrative, but the accompaniment perfectly mirrors her performance. It starts sparse, with Alto vocal and bass and gradually adds layer upon layer. From simple bass drum to tom heavy quasi-tribal polyrhythm’s that elevate the drama. To the smooth finger strummed acoustic guitar that is overdubbed with a more pick dominant strummed iteration as the piece progresses. The latter appearing to utilise only downstrokes, and generate a sense of urgency, nay desperation.

All aspects of the song work fluidly, effortlessly in unison; piano fragments, vocal harmonies, percussive elements low in the mix, electric guitar both clean and slightly distorted. All perfectly balanced and with absolute clarity. Which is testament to the outstanding work of Ryan Corn. A song is only as good as the producer / engineer and he’s created something very special here. The treatment of Martina’s voice is superb. It’s not about burying it in effects, it’s about creating different spatial placements and this is the best example I’ve heard for some time.

The piece has very good flow, with clearly defined structure and the use of dynamic shifts add emphasis when and where required. This is highlighted perfectly before the final chorus, when the breakdown adds extra impetuous to what will follow; an explosion, both musically and vocally before the final sudden stop on the line “tell me when you’re letting go”; I guess they didn’t after all. It’s a clever way to end a wonderful, often breath-taking song.

Martina Armour

I love the raw honesty and emotion that pervades ‘Love to Gold’, but above all else Martina’s voice is something very special. 

I’ve managed a full review without any mention or overview of her other work – EP title’s aside! So, briefly, almost apologetically; ‘Run the River’, has a Florence and the Machine air, particular in the chorus which harkens the spirit of, ‘Dog Days are Over.’ ‘Trouble’ has a beautiful fragility, reminiscent to Joni Mitchell. ‘Knife’, could have been taken from the ‘Under the Pink’ sessions. It’s hard to pick a favourite, but ‘Storms’, leaves an almost indelible mark upon the soul. Her output may not be prolific, but sometimes perfection takes time. And, we’ll not begrudge her that time when the results speak for themselves.

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Review

Summary

A breathtaking indie-folk-rock classic from an incredibly gifted artist. Great flow, with clearly defined structure and the beautiful use of dynamic shifts.
93%
An Emotive, Spacious, Classic

Rating

Song Quality
Vocal Performance
Lyrics
Instrumentation
Production

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About Author

Gareth Johnston

Gareth Johnston is a Lancashire based musician and producer who studied music at MMU. He is a former reviewer for 'Glitzine' and when not writing for 'The Indie Grid' can be found restoring old furniture whilst listening to obscure alt-rock. He has too many favourite bands to pick one and insists it's easier to pick a favourite child.

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