Electronic artist Polly Scattergood returns with her fourth studio album, In This Moment on 3rd July 2020. It’s an eagerly anticipated release following two critically acclaimed solo albums and a successful side project collaboration with fellow Mute bandmate James Chapman (A.K.A. MAPS) as OnDeadWaves.
Since then, a significant life event has taken place – Polly has become a mother. The life-changing experience of motherhood has provided a new, creative perspective and Polly’s latest album has been recorded in those snatched moments while her newborn baby slept. Womanhood is the beating heart of In This Moment. There are 12 tracks, each representing a sphere, a deeply intimate world holding a life story inside them. It’s such an interesting concept and plays out beautifully for the listener. Each song, each sphere represents a snapshot of all our lives – the grief and the joy of those life-changing moments- a collection of human experiences.
“Red” is a dramatic opener, a wall of sound at just over seven minutes long. Sonically strong and cinematic, it’s the most expansive track of the album and it captures perfectly strength, anger and rage but the song is about turning those emotions into something positive: “If Red is the colour of resistance, let Red be the colour of love”. It is a song about standing up to the powerful emotion of anger and fighting back: “We rage with the forcefield of a woman and we will rise – We’re the ghosts you can’t erase” and it’s reflected so brilliantly in the music with swirling pianos and synthesisers and pounding drums that come together perfectly to create a vision of the swell and rise of a stormy sea.
Lead single “Sphere” is sombre and dark in tone and seems to be influenced by Polly’s love of Scandi-noir films as she whispers through the lyrics, an incantation of the fragility of life. Then, at 1 minute 50 seconds, the heavy tense strings and bold drums make way for melancholic piano keys that add more theatre as Polly continues: ”No more the artist, the writer, the father – just a man-made of china in a world full of glass/ And we break so easily and we break so peacefully”. Polly showcases her impressive ability to tell a story and create unique, beautiful atmospheric sounds.
Sparkling, electronic keys open up the moving “After You” – a deeply personal song about the death of a friend. The shimmering synths are aptly celestial but there is a warm vibe to the song making it feel positive. Polly’s vocal sounds wistful as she sings the most heart-rending lyric: “Tell me why you insist on dying every time I close my eyes”.
Current single “Clouds” is an album highlight. There is something so haunting and captivating about this track. It is a song of acceptance, of finding hope in nature and the world around us because no matter what life throws at you, the world will just keep turning: “And the waves they roll/And the sea stays blue/ And the sun – it keeps on rising again” Polly’s distinct, ethereal vocal comes into its own here – the song lyrics are beautifully poetic and the musical soundscapes are reminiscent of her work with OnDeadWaves due to the reverb-electric guitar and shimmers of cymbal. It’s very evident that her time spent away with partner and producer Glenn Kerrigan in Fuerteventura helped Polly find the peace and calm she needed to create this track. It’s absolutely stunning.
Title track “In This Moment” is an experimental slice of electronica. It’s a song that imagines a hospital waiting room, with all its surreal, sad, tiny details, before Polly’s mind fantasises that all its broken machines end up “in the north pole/where some magical man finds them in the snow/ fixes them up lovingly/polishes every scar /tightens every screw”. It’s brave and different with crashes of drum and bangs of the keyboard which create a chaos, a crescendo of sound and certainly shows the depth of her imagination and creative flair. “Pearl” and “Bloom” are also songs about nature – the former a delicate song about finding magic miracles in the smallest things and the latter, a tribute to her baby daughter – “You are my greatest ever-living high”. There is so much tenderness in this song with just plucks of string and gentle waves of percussion. It’s a lullaby of love.
Another album highlight is closing track “Anchor” which opens initially with just simple keys and Polly’s delicate vocal: “I am the anchor, drown your thoughts around me, I am the nameless chain that holds you in the night drown your thoughts around me cos I’m drifting, I’m floating, I’m free”. Pastoral strings add peaceful textures and a Hammond organ three-quarters of the way through gives the song a different dynamic. It’s a gorgeous, blissful song with Polly’s vocal shifting in key changes sounding not unlike Katie Melua. It’s a song about finding resolution and inner peace after turbulence. The accompanying video was self- made during isolation and features surfers finding light in the waves – it’s a truly touching, emotional track which transports the listener to feeling free, if only for a few minutes.
There is something lovely and organic about In This Moment with its themes of nature, soundtracks, Scandinavian films and travel. Polly shows that she still has the ability to make fresh, original “visual” electronic music. Every song has its own musical soundscape – its own sphere. In This Moment is a collection of songs that transport people to very different emotional worlds, the kind of music that makes the listener close their eyes and open their hearts.