Hannah Peel: Fir Wave (My Own Pleasure)

Storied composer / arranger returns with sumptuous new set of ambient tinged electropop

Released Mar 26th, 2021 via My Own Pleasure / By Norman Miller
Hannah Peel: Fir Wave (My Own Pleasure) Northern Irish electronica maestra Hannah Peel has been playing around with, and reinventing the past, ever since her mesmerizing early home-produced ‘music box’ EP Rebox did cool things with covers of 1980s synth pop from outfits like Cocteau Twins, Soft Cell and New Order.

Her albums since then have kept her own distinctive form of ambient electronics at their core, but each with its own spin – be it the sophisticated electro songs of 2016's acclaimed Awake But Always Dreaming (voted Album of the Year by Electronic Sound) to the hypnotically beautiful concept album Mary Casio: Journey To Cassiopeia just a year later - a seven-movement odyssey for analogue synthesizers and traditional colliery brass band, full of unearthly arpeggios and kosmisch sound textures.

Having taken time out to hit the mainstream conscious in 2019 with her Emmy-nominated soundtrack for Game of Thrones: The Last Watch, Peel is back where you suspect she's happier, digging through archives for something interesting to put her spin on.

Fir Wave is built around samples of BBC Radiophonic Workshop leader Delia Derbyshire, who basically invented British electronic music in the 1960s - even if she is now mainly mentioned solely for creating the Dr Who theme music. Peel takes up the story: “The specialist library label KPM, gave me permission to reinterpret the original music of the celebrated 1972 KPM 1000 series: Electrosonic, the music of Delia Derbyshire and the Radiophonic Workshop.”

Nature – or rather natural processes – provide a thematic framework for the seven tracks she has come up with, which veer between ambient drift and pacier electropop. And Peel hits the heights in both styles, with the opening Wind Shadows like a prelude that sets out the album's twin approaches with its mix of choral ambience and dissonant glitches.

The pacy Emergence In Nature is an engaging slice of 1980s synthpop sheen over thudding beats set pleasingly high in the mix, while Ecovocative does even better with its hooky melody lines riding along on a staccato pulse that nods to Kraftwerk circa The Model.

Peel is equally adept flicking the switch to ambience. Patterned Formation is beautiful mood music, all languid trippiness and textural sonic splodges woven with a gorgeous melody, while the closing Reaction Diffusion fuses insistent little percussive clatters over pulsing electronic rhythms that could be out-takes from something great from the 1970s by either Michael Hoenig or Berlin-era Bowie.

If you want to quibble, then songs like Carbon Cycle and the title track veer into indulgence. The first drifts without finding purpose, while at eight minutes long, the title track outstays its welcome. But that's not something you can say about Peel's work, and this is another welcome addition. 4/5