The arrival of the album Wawu by Deline Briscoe is guaranteed to quicken any reviewer’s pulse. The unusual vocalist and songwriter has bolstered an already extraordinary reputation in her native Australia, as one of the most daring exponents of traditional and contemporary repertoire, fusing it in a highly original style evocative of sacred rituals native to her aboriginal origins with universally recognisable human emotions. True to form, Miss Briscoe presents the repertoire here with rhapsodic and winning finesse.
From the very outset, Miss Briscoe draws us into her world with “Wawu”, which begins with a hypnotic chant, leading to music that mimics its rhythm. Lulled by the peaceful rhapsody of the chant, the vocalist leads the musicians – and her assuredly her listeners as well – into her world which echoes in the mesmerising vibrations she issues from the one-word title “Wawu”. The Yalanji word encompasses the concepts of spirit, heart, love and connections between people, land, past, present and future underscores the entire one-and-a-half-minute song, its vibration sets the stage for the rest of the music as it propels the hypnotic rhythms that Miss Briscoe draws upon throughout.
Throughout the album, Miss Briscoe’s music shimmers evocatively, its slow-moving rhythms and the saturated colours and vocals textures make for an unusual musical experience that seems to float in an etherised atmosphere that flavours the entire repertoire. Although the most stellar repertoire is “Wawu”, “Ngadijina” and “Sweet Frangipani” featured on this disc invokes the natural beauty of Miss Briscoe’s aboriginal heritage, the contemporary “original” compositions such as “Sonrise”, “Joe” and “Tree” also glimmer and stand out for their musical integrity and ethereal beauty. Moods and emotions are also elevated by the hypnotic chords that drive the music onward and upward into the rarefied realm.
The harmonies provided by the vocal group Tiddas and the spoken word by Miss Briscoe’s daughter on “In The Night” add to the magical atmosphere. Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of this programme is that Miss Briscoe drives this music with an interminably slow, mesmerising beat, which adds a dramatic density to this breathtaking music.
Track list – 1: Wawu; 2: Heartbeat; 3: Human Experience; 4: Sonrise; 5: Joe; 6: Ignorance is Bliss; 7: Trust Us; 8: Tree; 9: Ngadijina; 10: Sweet Frangipani; 11: All Things Broken; 12: In The Night; 13: Need Your Love
Personnel – Deline Briscoe: vocals; Airileke Ingram: drums; Robbie Finch: double bass; Stephen Maxwell: piano; Paul Coyle: trumpet; Phil Bywater: clarinet and saxophone; With Guest Musicians – Andrea Keller: piano and composition; Tiddas (Lou Bennett, Amy Saunders and Sally Dastey): composition and harmony vocals (6); Emma Donovan, Jessie Lloyd and Jess Hitchcock: harmony vocals; Jade’Amali Leuga: spoken word (12)
Released – 2019
Label – Gaba Musik
Runtime – 51:36