As excuses for collaborations go, a shared love of the music of cult songwriter Robert Wyatt is a worthy catalyst. When all around them, underemployed musicians were filming lockdown covers of classic tunes or discovering a hitherto dormant appreciation of sea shanties, Lavinia Blackwall and Laura J Martin came together remotely during the pandemic to cover Wyatt’s Free Will and Testament, a whimsical reflection on identity and being which resonates 24 years on from its release with its beseeching closing sentiments, “let me off please, I am so tired”.
Inspired by the song’s questioning vulnerability, Blackwall and Martin channelled their anxieties into a full-blown collaboration as Wyndow. “There's no getting away from it being a quiet, but horrifically intense time for everyone,” they say. “We started to look inwards in a small way to fill the days, and from that we found the seeds of a record growing. It was great to have a project to get lost in.” As Martin puts it, “feeling uneasy never felt so easy.”
The pair are a natural fit, as the intoxicating reverie of their self-titled debut album demonstrates. The Clydebank-based Blackwall, already a veteran of the Scotsman Sessions, first made her distinctive musical mark as frontwoman of Glasgow psych folk rockers Trembling Bells – no strangers to collaboration themselves, hooking up with Bonnie “Prince” Billy and The Incredible String Band’s Mike Heron in their time.
Liverpudlian singer/songwriter Martin has released three solo albums. Conversant with keyboards, flute, harmonium, ukulele and mandolin, she has the multi-instrumentalist means of self-sufficiency but gravitates towards collaboration, working with the likes of rapper Buck 65, visual artist Jess Swainson and playing in Euros Childs’ live band.
Martin first met Blackwall at the Moseley Folk Festival but it wasn’t until the confinement of lockdown that the pair began exploring the sound of their intertwined voices. Though inspired initially by the harmonies of New Jersey sister act The Roches, Wyndow’s sound is informed less by country music, and more by folk, prog and Krautrock, all of which can be discerned to some degree in their Scotsman Session recording of album track When Winter Comes Shadowing In, a song “in preparation for the short dark days. It felt appropriate as the seasons start to close in and the wind starts whipping at the windows.”
Blackwall and Martin perform the song hunkered down in their respective home studios with seamless splicing of their live takes courtesy of their video director Peter Martin. The atmospheric results mirror the fully realised production of their album.
“I see this project as a set of musical postcards sent across the wires from Liverpool to Clydebank,” Martin has said. “The cards arrive rain-damaged and dog-eared on the other side and end up in new fantastical shapes.”
The duo will finally have an opportunity to test their music in person on tour next spring, “and we'll then probably look to see if more songs become Wyndow worthy.”
Wyndow play the Glad Café, Glasgow, 24 February, https://wyndow.bandcamp.com/album/wyndow
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