Karine Polwart’s A Pocket of Wind Resistance is a fine example of what can be achieved by a talented musician with a narrative and thematic vision. It’s captivating and it’s wonderful.
Created by Polwart as a companion piece to her theatrical production, Wind Resistance, A Pocket of Wind Resistance tells the story of Will and Roberta, a young couple in inter-war Midlothian. Using their story, set against the peat bog and scots pines of their home, Polwart explores and espouses her central thesis that we can only survive by relying on each other.
Beyond that, it’s also about life and death, motherhood, nature and the landscapes in which we find ourselves, again all tied into the idea of our interconnectedness.
The album as a whole is a complete, discrete piece of art. In order to fully appreciate it, and even understand it properly, you have to listen to it, in its entirety, beginning to end, and give it your full attention in doing so.
Polwart makes full use of her collaborator, sound designer and composer Pippa Murphy. Throughout the piece, Polwart makes use of birdsong and spoken word, alongside the instrumentation and vocals, to create a soundscape capable of whisking the listener away to the time and place she so lovingly describes.
Polwart, aside from her obvious musical skills, is also a talented storyteller. She creates a vivid picture of the moor, the bog, the geese flying overhead and Will and Roberta’s life within that setting. She then deftly ties these stories and settings to her themes - whether that be through the life-giving bog, likened to a womb, or the geese flying in formation, each taking their turn to fly at the front, where the wind resistance is greatest and the going hardest.
The mention of spoken word may put some off, but it is at very least worth giving it a chance. Even when speaking, Polwart’s voice has a beautiful musicality to it. Alongside the lyricism of her words and the instrumentation, the result is arguably more effective than had the words been sung.
A Pocket of Wind Resistance is really a beautiful piece of work, pairing storytelling and music in a way most artists can only dream of.James Motteram
Released 17 November 2017 on Hudson Records.
1. All on a Summer’s Evening
2. The Moor Speaks
3. Lark in the Clear Air
4. Labouring and Resting
5. Tyrannic Man’s Dominion
6. Place to Rest and Mend
7. A Benediction
8. Small Consolation
9. White Old Woman of the Night
10. Sphagnum Mass for a Dead Queen
11. Lullaby for a Lost Mother
12. Remember the Geese
13. Molly Sime’s Welcome to Salter’s Road
14. We are all Bog Born