Circular patterns are at the heart of the first collaborative album between Kinbrae (twin brothers Mike & Andy Truscott) and fellow Fife-based writer and artist Clare Archibald. Much of the meaning behind what they have created is condensed into its succinct title – Birl of Unmap. Birl is a Scots word meaning ‘to spin’ – evoking the image of the spiral path to the top of the unfinished Fife Earth Project conceived by post-modern landscape architect Charles Jencks that sits on a large area of post-industrial land near the M90 motorway – while ‘unmap’ points to the layered abstractions and deconstructions of place the album explores that defy linear cartography. Combining poetry and musical composition with oral history and site-specific field recordings, the trio were able to create their very own “revolving map of people, place, sound and language” that encompass layers of human and non-human history past and present.
The best way to take in the full depth and breadth of the project is read the interview with Clare and the band published today by the Glasgow-based poetry zine SPAM and which was conducted by editor-in-chief Maria Sledmere who also frames the album beautifully in its preface (full article here).
Whether in the bright layers of brass or modular synthesis, the guiding piano or the density of sounds whose echo and dissolve captures something of pit-life, or the tangled bracken of the hillsides, this record expresses the textures and variable moods of place. It tells stories of the land’s agency while opening new feelings of discovery and wonder; it explores the movement of naming, language and memory between place and time; it glimpses into deep-time through the circular birl of Fife’s land forms.SPAM zine
Readers of these pages may be familiar with the music of Kinbrae previously featured here including Tidal Patterns (1631 Recordings, 2016) and Landforms (Truant Recordings, 2019). They bring a similar sonic alchemy to the musical side of Birl of Unmap blending synths and electronic textures with brass and orchestration, but skewed more toward the ambient end of the spectrum so as to complement and leave room for the spoken words that infuse the album with its character.
I think music allows people to inhabit spaces in their own way more than wholly words-based work can, there’s more scope for nuance and not imposing narratives. That said in order to understand history there has to be some contextualisation, however abstract, from which people can leap off to find out more if they want.Clare Archibald
In conjunction with the aforementioned interview, I am happy to be able to share a premiere viewing of the video created by Max Breakenridge for the album’s penultimate track entitled “Peer”. Taking its title from the Scots word for ‘to look at’ the piece brings into its scope the Pictish and Viking history of the area as well as the work of other Fife artists (in this instance Ian Moir and his Citizen Spire vision of a dual installation/ arts centre and looking out point). It’s looping musical and vocal patterns manage to capture some sense of the physical experience of tracing the circular birl of the landforms to reach the open top while evoking the image of soaring red kites that can sometimes be spotted in the blue skies overhead. Adding a dimension of cinematic warmth are cello parts performed by friend of the band Sebastian Selke (CEEYS). It all comes together in an immersive melding of sound, color, and poetic expression that serves as one of the highlights of this fascinating multi-layered project.
Rust stares the red kite circle
of unseen Pictish blue
Viking ships with damsel wings
In drone of trying to
Birl of Unmap will be released February 11, 2022 on cassette tape & CD by Full Spectrum records in the US and The Dark Outside in the UK and features artwork by Niall McCormack. The album was mastered by Andrew Weathers and mixed by musician Ben Chatwin (aka Talvihorros) at whose The Vennel Studio in Fife it was recorded (cello parts recorded in Potsdam, Germany).
Links: Full Spectrum | The Dark Outside | Kinbrae | Clare Archibald | SPAM interview