Birling Gap

The Catenary Wires

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Birling Gap Review

by Marcy Donelson

A project that emerged from the couple accepting an invitation to perform at a Sarah Records tribute concert as a duo, the Catenary Wires' Amelia Fletcher and Rob Pursey continue to honor the tradition of the revered indie pop label and previous bands spanning Talulah Gosh and Tender Trap with their third Catenary Wires album, Birling Gap. Having added three official members to the group since Til the Morning two years prior, Birling Gap reflects a commitment to a more expansive, psychedelic-leaning sound touched on in previous material. It opens with the scene-setting "Face on the Rail Line," a hazy, midtempo psych-folk entry with layered harmonized vocals and organ on top of strummed acoustic guitar and a low-key rhythm section. Its cautionary lyrics seek connection in modern times with "I want you for real/Seems like you're drawing near/But screens reveal/And screens conceal." They soon head into bouncier territory with tracks like the bubblegum pop-evoking "Always on My Mind," an effusion of affection and reassurance with a twist ending, and "Mirrorball," which reminisces about bygone nights at the nightclub ("It was an '80s disco/I know -- not cool"). Themes of change and the passage of time continue throughout Birling Gap and its middle-aged perspectives, with the synth-suffused "Liminal" veering stylistically into melancholy post-punk territory. With a lead vocal by Fletcher, it's followed by the Pursey-led (Fletcher-harmonized) "Canterbury Lanes," which corrects course with acoustic guitars and glockenspiel. The album closes on "The Overview Effect," a bittersweet survey that wonders "When we look back, will we claim we did our best?"

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