Emotion is central to Welsh-born Sarah Howells’ solo project Bryde, whether potently exalted, or hushed and tempered, Howells expresses with ferocious clarity and a strength of being that could withstand a hurricane. The full-length debut album collects a selection of already-released singles alongside a host of rather impressive new cuts, proudly chest baring the title: Like An Island.
The record lifts its title from a lyric nestled in track six [‘Euphoria’], illustrating the importance of language and meaning within the Bryde universe.”Coming out of the dark like an island,” Howells delivers hesitantly over a raw minor-key melody that incrementally softens to reach a blustered resilience. In a song which tackles internal darkness as an effort to overcome struggle, there’s something very admirable and inspiring to name a record in response to this acutely human pain: To admit the suffering but resist breaking under pressure. Possibly the most crucial element of Howells’ songcraft is her urgency and defiance to carry on, to never yield or break in spite of adversity. It is a powerful resistance that echoes great resonance to all who heed Howells’ sincere verse.
The record carefully allies tenderness adjacent to spiky dissonance, fragrant imagery with calmness of voice, transparency with volatile tugs of musicality. Bryde’s world is a harsh one but true, moments of comfort and recline rarely break through during its run-time, yet once they do, they offer versatility for the artist [‘Steady Heart‘ being one of these languid trailblazers]. Other highlights include blustery slow-burner ‘To Be Brave,’ wild-riffer ‘Flesh, Blood and Love‘ and crowd-pleasing tension-builder ‘Handstands.’
Howells masterfully examines the human condition on Like An Island: the self-editing, destructiveness, liberation, resilience, and overwhelming self-discovery. Told from a place of intimacy and recorded closely to detail every slight change in tone or cadence, Howells expertly captures the breadth of feeling the songs convey. Storms brew and distill a sensational, idiosyncratic performer on tracks like ‘Less‘ and ‘Peace.’ Through push and pull of heavy intensity vs. steady tranquility, the tracks offer a refreshing polarity in what makes Bryde’s work so interesting and compelling – as well as the prospect that each song structure will provide a plethora of twists and turns for its listener.
Although billed as a solo project, the landscape in which Bryde works is vast and expansive, and cannot be resigned to the makings of one single individual [the full-band live shows are just one example of this]. Howells heads the ship but she is one of many working behind the scenes to create this visceral exploration, with Catherine Marks and Mandy Parnell respectively assisting with mixing and mastering the album. Nevertheless, Howells writes and performs these songs – every word, every instrumental, every arrangement has poured out of her mind and onto the page, and this achievement alone deserves acknowledgement and due credit.
Like An Island in no respect feels like a debut record. Its astute self-awareness is not to be taken lightly, sculpting a passionate presentation of indie rock and singer-songwriter grit, fortified by a vocal ability of exceptional presence and a credibility that assures the artist’s longevity. Like An Island is a record of the heart: Sometimes heady, sometimes peaceful, sometimes restless – but never quiet.
‘Like An Island’ is released on 13th April 2018 via Seahorse Music – various bundles and formats can be purchased here.