Karine Polwart – A Pocket of Wind Resistance

Karine Polwart's companion to her Wind Resistance piece is a brilliant record that deserves to be heard from start to end

Album Review by Harry Harris | 20 Nov 2017
Album title: A Pocket of Wind Resistance
Artist: Karine Polwart
Label: Hudson Records
Release date: 17 Nov (physical release 1 Dec)

Wind Resistance – Karine Polwart's musical meditation on maternity, Midlothian, and migration – has been lavished with praise ever since it debuted at the Edinburgh International Festival in 2016. A Pocket of Wind Resistance manages to capture the essence of the stage production, whilst still tying together as a coherent record in its own right.

For the uninitiated, there are two or three concurrent narratives going on across the album's fourteen tracks. The story of an annual geese migration to the bogs around Fala Flow; that of Will and Roberta Sime and their unborn child; and also that of Karine herself, her own relationship to the story, and to Will and Roberta's daughter Molly. Karine has always been a narrative songwriter, but here she's flexing her muscles even further. Molly Sime's Welcome To Salter's Road, which first appeared on her SAY-nominated album Traces as Salters Road, gives an already beautiful song more room to breathe, and placing it fully in the context of the story gives it a cinematic quality. 

Huge credit must be given to Pippa Murphy, the sound designer with whom Karine worked on the show. With brief ambient flourishes, these comparatively pared-back songs are set perfectly in context – the rhythm of wind on Tyrannic Man's Dominion, a re-interpretation of Now Westlin Winds; the constant chatter of bird song, and a slight ghostliness added to some of Karine's spoken word moments, particularly A Place To Rest And Mend. Tiny shifts in context that help push the story forward.

Far be it from us to tell you how to listen to music, but A Pocket of Wind Resistance deserves to be sat through start to finish – at least for the first couple of times. Not that the songs don't work on their own, because they absolutely do, but the overall bleed from one to the next, the movement of the narrative, is what makes this such a brilliant piece of work. 

Listen to: Molly Sime's Welcome To Salter's Road, Small Consolation