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Hazel Winter - Situation Normal Then

Hazel Winter, Situation Normal Then

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 2 out of 5

HAZEL Winter is described by many as one of Bristol’s most cherished musicians, and regularly draws comparisons with the likes of PJ Harvey and Portishead.

Her new album, Situation Normal Then, is far from normal, though. Ethereal in places, raw and gritty in others, it also showcases her musical ability, featuring instruments such as Northumbrian pipes, mandolin, wooden flute, medieval side drum and even the Didgeridoo!

The songs were recorded over two separate weekends, 18 months apart, with one half of the album produced by Adrian Utley and the other by Hazel herself. The result offers a typically eye-opening blend of nourish guitar blues and raucous folk rock – but not all of its entirely successful.

At its best, the album delivers such richly atmospheric, imagery-laden efforts such as The Candyman Walks and Wolf, a folk rock track that opens amid a rousing mix of wooden flute and rock guitar.

A more tender side to Winter’s songwriting is evident on Dancing The Girl, which draws on some fine banjo and a softer vocal performance. But there’s an underlying darkness to proceedings, as well as a certain paranoia, that makes Situation Normal Then difficult to entirely warm to.

Tracks such as Music To Self Harm To have the ability to disturb, thereby creating a distance between the singer and the listener. While the ethereal album closer Surfacing ends the album on a depressed note – sparse, raw… but missing an emotional connection.

A failed intro to a non-existent track 13, which brings the album to a close with Winter admitting, “sorry, I fucked that up”, could even then serve as an apt description for the LP as a whole. At times entrancing, it fails to work as a whole.

Download picks: Dancing The Girl, Wolf, The Candyman Walks

Track listing:

  1. Midwich Sleep On
  2. Don’t Send Me Back To The Dark Place
  3. The Ballad of Geilie Duncan
  4. Turn The Main Siren On
  5. Dancing The Girl
  6. The Candyman Walks
  7. Malice Damaged
  8. Wolf
  9. Mystery
  10. Music To Self-Harm To
  11. Christmas Chrysanthemums
  12. Surfacing