Recorded at night and at home amid a comforting tangle of instruments, Nancy Elizabeth Cunliffe’s third album can be both uncomfortably intimate and coldly distancing. It might have taken shape in her icy Manchester flat, but it feels like the work of somebody wandering wet-haired and wild-eyed around the village perimeter, uncertain whether to throw herself into the pond or curdle the milk with a curse. For all the meticulous layering of vocals, piano, synthesizers and percussion, tracks “Shimmering Song” or “Simon Says Dance” suggest something untrammeled and unpredictable.
If her voice allows her to tap into an age-old folk current, Cunliffe’s use of synthesizers on “All Mouth” and “Mexico” pitches the record into the modern world, underlining its free-floating eeriness. But despite the skin-prickling chill, these are hot-blooded songs. “Oh don’t follow all your fantasies/ Just stay in bed with me/ I’ll tie your tethers tighter if you dare to wriggle free,” she sings on the quiet desperation of “Debt”, collapsing together the PJ Harvey of both Rid Of Me and White Chalk. It’s no wonder that so many songs included the word “heart”: This is a record that feels everything deeply, pulling you along to its compelling beat.