Caught by the River

These Feral Lands: A Year Documented in Sound & Art – APRIL SOUNDS

Laura Cannell | 30th April 2021

The fourth of Laura Cannell and Kate Ellis’s monthly collaborative EPs celebrates making it through the winter.

April Sounds is energised by the coming of spring, and like the birds who sing at dawn to celebrate that they made it through the night again, we have made it through the winter. Early April may have brought snow and hail but it is now contrasted with shards of piercing sunlight, early blossoms, and an excited air about the future again, though in all honesty this comes and goes. This month’s music has a brightness in tone and feel that could not have occurred in the true depth of winter. 

Working from home has been pretty normal for me for years; I’ve tried having a studio away from home several times, but I found I need everything set up all the time and to be able to do things at a moment’s notice, so our cottage is one big music room now. The working is usually accented with interjections of festivals, gigs, rehearsals, and other random live events. Being in one place I have been thinking a lot about friends and relationships, and realise that most of my friendships of the past ten years have been made on the road, and through those intense performance and adrenaline-fuelled adventures and collaborations. I have grabbed opportunities to have overexcited conversations with people drawn together by a visionary curator or festival programmer. It’s strange to think that someone booking a festival has had such profound impacts on the creation of friendships. We all come together and then disperse. A lot of the time it felt like a dream and on long journeys home, on the train across Europe, or from Scotland or the West Country, I would have time to digest the previous night’s events. Being here, I have trouble separating all of the numerous conversations, green-rooms and after-show bars which felt so important and intense.

Friendships have been made up of chance, circumstance and fleeting location rather than with the people who I live near to in the village or town that I have lived in for the past three and a half years. The most activity there is here is the large array of wildlife, and the churchyard next door — which is usually a peaceful place, but becomes all too real when the gravediggers arrive and a couple of days later a collection of mourners appear outside my studio window, close to my back door. Last week it was too much, and I think I caught the sadness through the ether, with only a hawthorn hedge dividing us. It felt too close. The people left their goodbyes, and they left their loved one in the ground nearby. I couldn’t sleep, but that’s all they could do. 

It makes me think of the rituals which have been missed by so many, and the times of being unable to say goodbye, or even hello over the past year. This may not seem to have anything to do with the new music, but I think that it is impossible to detach this project from its surroundings. We wanted this project to capture our real feelings, and though I wouldn’t explicitly write a piece of music about the congregated mourners next door, it has inextricably found its way in — in an optimistic and releasing way though, I hope. Sometimes it feels like we are so alone, but being alone fuels me with the energy of music-making, knowing that somehow it will bring me closer to people I can’t currently have conversations with on the road. Our sounds will be in their spaces, in their lives, and I have no idea how it will effect their journeys, I just have to keep making it because it feels like the best thing for me to do.

I have a posting ritual. Every time I post a CD, I say thank you to every single person on the addressed envelopes that I put into the postbox at the end of the lane — yes it takes longer, but I really appreciate each and every listener. I have always done this with letters and post, from the early days of sending out CD demos, to birthday cards. Even when I look at my streaming statistics, I know that there is a connection; I can be grateful by saying thank you to the  people showing up on the ‘now listening’ numbers who flicker up on Spotify for Artists.

With regular monthly releases throughout 2021 there are more frequent visits to said postbox…luckily I don’t care what the neighbours think about me standing and talking to the red hole in the overgrown ivy. It’s one of my connections, a portal to connect me and other people together. An ancient method of communication that I am grateful for, a way to send our music to different countries, and communicate the emotions and stories that have gone into making April Sounds.

My collaborator Kate has been back in Ireland for what seems like an age, though really it makes no difference to the way we are currently working. She is cramming in an insane amount of recordings for releases, videos and filming for television with her incredible Ireland-leading new music ensemble, a year’s worth of work into a few months. But between our other projects we still have time to discuss the finer things, such as folklore, what we are cooking, and the simple joy of having new strings on our instruments! And the other miracle that is bow rosin, something which transforms a string player’s music (but both of us seem a bit lax in that ritual).

When things feel broken we can reconstruct them into something new and even more beautiful. Like the ancient Japanese art of Kintsugi (“Golden Repair”), ‘Gold Edges’ takes our difficult or broken emotions and cultivates a brittle fiddle line with luscious cello and overbowed violin into something new; something simultaneously energetic and dreamlike.

Wild Garlic (creamh) flowers covering the path as we emerged from hibernation…On return to Ireland Kate’s garden was grown over with creamh. We jokingly said she should write music about wild garlic and it became clearer that the most common things hold the most magic. In Irish folklore bears would eat wild garlic as they emerged from hibernation, and cloves of wild garlic were planted for good luck in the thatch of Irish cottages as it was thought to deter fairies.

Pizzicato droplets are recorded over the phone, like water splashing onto our wooden shields. We are ready.

“What Birds are these? That come from the Ocean. These are the Birds that Return.”

This song was created from fifteen words of a fragmented poem by the ancient Greek Alcaeus (born 625 BC). It’s a reminder that some things have not changed in centuries and no matter what happens, the birds will return and spring will come again.

All tracks composed, recorded & produced by the performers: 

Laura Cannell – Violin / Overbowed Violin / Viola / Voice 

Kate Ellis – Cello / Double Bass.

Find the EP here.


Our artist this month is Rory Tangney, who has made a video responding to the track ‘GOLD EDGES’. Here is a note from the artist:

“The source material for this video has all been taken with the camera on my phone, all of it within the bounds of my house and garden as I quarantined for 2 weeks. This footage has then been put through an experimental process using some basic special effects as I was determined to avoid any sort of narrative for the piece. The result is an ever-evolving and pulsating video full of colour and abstract visuals which keep pace with the music throughout.” 

We’re really pleased to be working with the incredible experimental multi-disciplinary artist Rory Tangney.

“I am an award winning visual artist living in Dublin, but with a base also in Essex. I have a multi-disciplinary practice and my work has been presented in galleries and symposia in Italy, Berlin and the UK, as well as throughout Ireland. It has been broadcast on national radio and on international podcasts. Most recently, I have been the recipient of the Sculpture Dublin Experiment! Award, 2021. I have also been a prize winner at the Royal Hibernian Academy Annual exhibition. In 2020 I was been funded by the Arts Council of Ireland to create an online project ‘Tales of the Futurepast’ in response to the COVID 19 crisis. I have taken part in several recent collaborations, most significantly with musician/composer Colm O’Hara in 2019, and in 2018 with dancer Mary Wycherley in the touring project Invisible Histories which was funded by the Arts Council of Ireland.”


These Feral Lands – A Year Documented in Sound and Art is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.