Tickets also available from Bristol Beacon
Photo by Harry Clark
"I wanted this record to be a completely different feeling and sound,” says Kathryn Joseph, of for you who are the wronged, the follow-up to 2018’s from when i wake the want is. Her first release since the standalone single (whole) - it’s a much anticipated return.
Unspoken truths take flight in songs that simmer and seethe with quiet anger, as Joseph gives voice to those robbed of their own. This record is a statement of abuse observed; its narrative woven with pain’s complexities, futility and stasis.
If ‘From When I Wake…’ was written for love to return, this is where she fights tooth and claw to protect it. And though her sparrow-boned musical structures are as slight and sparse framed as their singer - they burn with a fearsome new certainty.
Her debut, Bones You Have Thrown Me and Blood I’ve Spilled, won 2015’s Scottish Album of the Year award. An uncompromising gut-punch that grieved aloud, she mourned passing relationships and, with unimaginable courage, the loss of her son. This possession with truth-telling is her hallmark, digging straight for the heart.
Originally from Inverness, she was a child happiest outside and never afraid of the dark. Though she hadn’t written before songwriting and her debut was released years after the songs were finished, her lyrics are steeped in the magical, creepy shadows of her youth - even if she now splits her time between Aberdeen and Glasgow.
Though lockdown temporarily stopped her writing, (“I thought I’m never going to write another song again…I didn’t really know if I cared or not”), she shook off her sadness by cycling to the sea, and soon, ideas came spilling out. “It was just the oddness of how fast they came too…I was feeling in control, and like I could stick to something.”
Recorded at The Lengths Studio in Fort William, with producer Lomond Campbell, the converted old school-house offered a week-long solace to let her focus solely on the music.
“It’s the first time I've done it that way - I didn't have to think about anything but making a record,” she says. “Both the others, we'd recorded over two days and that was it. There was time to feel like I could enjoy it, and get into it more.” It’s her first co-production credit, too - and given the heart-close nature of the subject, only fitting that she’d shape its execution.
The sound is spacious, honouring the rawness of her original demos, written in early 2020. Opener what is keeping you alive makes me want to kill them for sees her swapping her signature piano for keyboard. “There's something nice about it being this new noise,” she says. “It's all pretty sparse…I can hear the click of the keys. It's become something small. But raging.”
Intuition led her to other musical shifts: namely, in her own vocals. “When I made a noise, I thought ‘this is what this song wants to sound like’. My voice is different on this too. The way I’d been singing had changed. Part of me thought I didn’t even know how to sing anymore. That felt really uncomfortable, but it was the way it wanted to come out.”
The subject matter is violation - of power, of love, of access - a pain that may not belong to her alone, but she strives to make sense of what’s being enacted on others. “The people abusing don't see themselves that way. Basically, there's nothing you can do,” she says.
Anger sears on tracks like the burning of us all (“The way they gaslit, swallowed it whole…The way they tried to make them hate the ones they loved”) and flesh and blood (“I will suck the poison out…and spit it back into the black holes of their open mouths”)
Handling the pain of others is delicate, and comes with responsibility. “I’m being protective, because they’re about other people. I wanted it to be a comforting noise,” she explains.
All is underpinned by a deep sense of love. only the sound of the sea would save them imagines a moment’s comfort, found in the elements. until the truth of you offers to bear the pain to spare the beloved (“Give me your sorrow/Give me your blood”). bring me to your open wounds, she pleads, on the album’s most candid, devastating lyric. (“Into them I’ll cry/ And I will lick you clean, my love/ And let you bleed me dry.”)
Abuse, and its deadening silences, can suffocate even the strongest. In crafting these songs, Joseph offers a window into these toxic patterns that she hopes could save someone.
“Partly, it feels like the only thing I can do in terms of saying it out loud,” she says. “It’s like code. No-one will hear their name, or recognise themselves, but in years to come, they might.
“For me, I think maybe there’s someone who might not even realise that they're being abused until they listen to these songs. The ones who are already - I know how strong they are. They’re in my life, and they're surviving it.”
The record is an act of tribute: for you, who are the wronged.
To survivors, their strength and their courage to go on.
“That's what I want to do,” she explains. “Take sore things and them be a document, for people that I love, and the truth of their lives not being told. They don't believe that about themselves, that they're the beautiful and good.
“I want them to know. This is my only way of doing that.”
Tickets are available online, over the phone or in person.
The Bristol Folk House
40A Park Street
0117 926 2987
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