Caught by the River

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

Laura Cannell | 28th May 2021

Vivid dreams of love and loss sit alongside joy, tension and shifting patterns in the fifth of Laura Cannell and Kate Ellis’s monthly EPs.

As things open up, I find myself in a strange place. Living rurally and outside of what I perceive as mainstream activities — things I either don’t want to do or things I previously haven’t been able to afford to do, like holidays, buying a house — it was hard to come to terms with the lack of live performance and travelling. Working in music and performing at festivals, gigs and projects are so much more than work: they are entire infrastructures and for me have acted as work, career, socialising, inspiration, travel, time away, headspace, adventures. Whether in weird (read: grotty) hotels, amazing hotels…all of these experiences happened because of live music and events. And that’s just for me alone, or two of us on the road. Imagine the hundreds of thousands of musicians and performers who were doing this every night in the past, all at different stages of these journeys. Sometimes I realise that it’s okay to feel like something is missing; all of my life was wrapped up in these journeys. And I know I am not alone, either in how it impacts being a musician or the fact that pretty much everyone’s lives are changed. But I have decided to embrace the quietude and not rush to put myself back out there when I am not ready. 

For a long time I thought I wasn’t able to balance my life; I always felt like the wrong-shaped peg. Most of the time I didn’t mind, I am happy with not ‘fitting in’, and as my Nanna Cannell (whose nickname was Mozart — another story) used to say in her very broad Norwich dialect, referring to when things aren’t what you expect…“She’ll hatta come-a-terms with ut”. Everyone always says it’s about ‘work/life balance’, but I don’t think that’s the case at all, especially now. It’s about being truthful about who you are, what you can deal with, what you want to deal with and what you put out into the world. I recently had some really moving correspondences with people who reached out to say how much my music is helping them through the pandemic and through their own grief. If I can make a living from music and benefit someone else’s life then it is working.

For me, life and music is about being ‘all in’. I’ve tried to balance, and compartmentalise, to switch between work and life, but it just doesn’t work like that…well not for me anyway.  The monthly output of this project is a bit of a gamble. It’s a lot, and it’s exciting, and it’s constantly generating new ideas. It’s finding a way to do my work at a time when I am not out there. So to hear that it is helping even one or two people and making a positive difference in their lives means as much to me as performing to a live audience. And after so many years of being extremely busy out and about performing, working on projects, collaborations, travelling, waiting in stations/airports etc, I am enjoying being able to spend even more time creating in a non-hectic environment. Of course I miss the energy of towns and cities, of people, of spontaneous and hilarious happenings, of improvised conversations, but there is so much life around (even if it is currently mainly birds, sheep and bees) if you open up to it and you can still have an impact and share something.

About this month’s music…

Vivid dreams of love and loss sit alongside joy, tension and shifting patterns as the season transitions towards a new lightness. The sonic world of Laura Cannell and Kate Ellis is becoming stronger and slowly shifts like tectonic plates.


In 2020 Laura began writing down her vivid dreams in a time of grief. ‘We Took Short Journeys’ was a strangely positive dream about spending time with a loved one who had recently left this earth. One more drive together. This is the first time Laura has used spoken word and melody, and presented such intimate stories.


The tension and fragility of our world is struck through jittering chords. Muscles and movement all unseen but contributing to the ongoing motion alongside moments of descending and melodious beauty, like the roots beneath the trees and our own inner workings.

Stories and memories are embedded in the spaces between the notes. A quartet for violins is underpinned in and out of phase by a quartet of cellos.


Feeling a sense of change and a shifting perspective. Like tectonic plates, exploring simplicity and trying to create space, allowing for breath but then taking flight. 


We will always have the twilight and the dreaming lands that we disappear to. In and out of time, colours change and shift as we make our way through the nights.

All tracks composed, recorded & produced by the performers: 

Laura Cannell – Violin / Overbowed Violin /Voice 

Kate Ellis – Cello

Find the EP here.


Our artist this month is Jack Phelan, who has made a video responding to the track WE TOOK SHORT JOURNEYS. Here is a note from the artist:

“When I first heard ‘We Took Short Journeys’, I knew I’d like to make a single-shot piece for it. I think it’s ideally suited to accompany spoken word and these themes of loss and the fragility of memory, even recent ones. The unedited camera a sort of held breath and a reluctance to blink in fear of the moment lost. The steady, fast movement along the road, the unblinking camera and the partial photogrammetry techniques combine — I hope — to create a sense of fragile intimacy in a vast universe.”


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