Swimming Bell – the solo vehicle for folk singer Katie Schottland
Swimming Bell, the solo vehicle for folk singer Katie Schottland, is back in the spotlight this April with a sensationally surreal album titled Wild Sight, and it’s a brilliant way to follow-up the critically acclaimed EP The Golden Heart, to say the least. Featuring a newfound swagger in “Quietly Calling,” “Got Things” and “Good Time, Man,” along with a strikingly cerebral strain of introspection in moving ballads like “Left Hand Path,” “For Brinsley” and the chilling “Wolf,” Wild Sight is an exquisite amalgamation of the many talents Schottland has come to master since her arrival on the scene, and moreover, an incredible encapsulation of her unique artistry in its fully-evolved state.
“Cold Clear Moon” (written by Tomo Nakayama), “We’d Find,” “1988” and “Love Liked You” feature some really cerebral string arrangements that occasionally flirt with abstract space pop, but the lyrics within the songs are always an acerbic linchpin holding everything together. Even at its most experimental, Wild Sight never goes completely avant-garde in its wickedly inventive stylization, and while some tracks like “Got Things” and “Good Time, Man” utilize familiar acoustic/folk song structures, Swimming Bell delivers them in such a relaxed, unurgent manner that they sound so much more angelic and stately than they ever would have otherwise.
Producer Oli Deakin turns in some of his finest work here as well, particularly in the complex tracks “Left Hand Path,” “Cold Clear Moon,” “Quietly Calling” and the rousing “Wolf.” All of the textured details in these songs are showcased immaculately in the master mix, and we’re never left to aimlessly dig through the layers of tonality in search of the origin-point of each strand of melodicism. Everything is really well-defined in the grander scheme of things, from the reverberated glow of the string play to the magnetizing drawl of our lead singer’s stellar vocal track.
There’s so much color in the serenades that adorn “1988,” “We’d Find” and “Love Liked You” that contrasts with the black and white rhythm as it’s applied to “Got Things” and “For Brinsley,” and it really adds to the textural diversity of Wild Sight as a whole. Schottland seriously pulled out all of the stops in this record and goes about making a point of playing us compositions that demand a lot out of her as a singer, and perhaps more significantly, as a lyricist. She’s proving to be one of the most talented players in her scene here, and touching on intriguing new ground that I can’t wait to hear her explore even further in the future.
Wild Sight is a masterfully packaged smorgasbord of lyrical tenacity and warm, organic tonality, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s one of the most robustly arranged and marvelously mixed releases of the season. Swimming Bell is finding its place in the current musical climate in these songs and dispensing a sound that is truly Katie Schottland’s and Katie Schottland’s alone. Wild Sight’s multilayered construction and supple sonic sway will keep any fan of indie folk coming back for more, and could easily raise the profile of its composer from underground obscurity into the limelight of the primetime stage where she undisputedly belongs.