Cleo Harratt may be known to some as the frontwoman for RealPolitik, an experimental/post-rock act from Leeds, where her strident yet wounded vocals were a key element to their confrontational sound. Now performing under the name of Halcyon, Harratt’s solo debut assembles a similarly confident selection of songs.
Harratt is certainly an arresting vocalist; capable of reaching Beth Gibbons levels of anguish on most songs here but she can be as gentle as Crystal Gayle when she reveals her softer side for the surprisingly mainstream country rock of ‘The Way You Used To Be’. Otherwise, each song seems to be affected by a sense of longing from the moment she opens on the mouth for ‘Skeleton Key’.
Much like the band she fronts, ‘Eating Cherries…’ is never going to be a pop album. Naive ideas like verses and choruses give way to experimental folk which occasionally meanders a little too much (witness ‘Broken People’ and its usage of an unnecessary guitar solo and emoting); but these arrangements are in do danger of undermining Harratt’s huge vocals and some special moments duly emerge.
‘Shapes’ builds up layers of quiet tension before the singer unleashes the kind of despairing cries which make you think she’s been holding them back for years. It’s an undoubtedly powerful moment but her talents reach a stunning peak with ‘Fatherly Apparition’; here her vocal is full of so much conviction that the sense of sadness and pain is frightening. The album then ends rather incongruously on a hopeful, innocent note thanks to the lovely, lullaby-like ‘The Wish Tree’.
As an artist, Harratt is in the mould of Kate Bush or Tori Amos; a free spirit with ideas of her own and unwilling to conform to the demands of what the public expect of a female singer/songwriter. This individualism can lead to the listener feeling a little bit isolated and detached from her vision at times but for the majority of this record she reveals herself to be a captivating performer who demands attention for all the right reasons.
Halcyon Soundcloud Page
RealPolitik, Kate Bush, Dead Can Dance