Review: Hwyl Nofio – Isolate (self-released, Apr 18)

Hwyl Nofio’s first full-length studio album in three years comes with a timely aesthetic. Isolate is not really about “isolation” in general though; I think it’s more concerned with the specific form of the word that provides its title, the actual action of or a given command to “isolate.” As more and more irrational anti-lockdown protests crop up, we need more records like these, pieces of reverent and considered music that tread in the true solace that one can achieve in solitude. As with most of the band’s past albums, Isolate was entirely composed, arranged, and produced by founding member and chief creative force Steve Parry, but he’s also joined by other artists on several tracks to keep things diverse. Rothko founder Mark Beazley lends “bass and noise” contributions to opening track “The Road to Duggleby Howe,” which starts things off with dissonant yet sublime interplay between a dense, monotone drone and delicate guitar phrasings, while prolific musician Steve Sherlock ends “The Ghosts of Bognor Regis” with a languid, nocturnal saxophone serenade and sound artist Rhodri Davies rounds out the beautiful closer “Dolphins” with his harp. The moments where Parry is most in tune with his collaborators are also some of the record’s strongest, but there’s no shortage of gorgeous, affecting music on Isolate; the Salmon Run–esque choral ambience of “Breath” and the aching, somber string minimalism of “Womb Bird (for Vicky).” To everyone who’d rather die than see their precious economy slump, who’d rather put their neighbors and coworkers at risk than just stay home, listen to this album. Think about all the beauty you’re missing out on by running away from yourself. Think about all the beauty you’ll miss out on if you martyr yourself. Isolate.

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