Siren is the long-awaited debut album from Kitty Whitelaw (voice) and Tye McGivern (contrabass and effects), collectively known as Sealionwoman. The album represents the culmination of eight years’ work, honing and refining their utterly extraordinary sound, until they were finally ready to commit their music to vinyl.
Siren has its roots in Selkie, a series of concerts performed by the duo in the subterranean vaults beneath Waterloo Station in 2016. Set at the time of the Highland Clearances, its lyrical themes interweave mythic elements from Scottish folklore with fragments of traditional ballads researched by Whitelaw at Cecil Sharp House, using the legend of the seal wife to explore themes of control, loss and revenge.
Whitelaw’s voice alternates between plaintive and primal, drawing comparisons as varied as Mina Agossi and Diamanda Galás, as she lures the listener into a crepuscular realm where history and myth intersect. McGivern underscores the narrative with depthless drones, drawn from his double-bass, creating a brooding narcotic fugue, intercut with passages of brutal Bartok pizz and surges of distortion.
Siren is a record of extremes, as elemental and engulfing as the sea that spawned its titular figure. An undercurrent of menace lurks beneath every moment of calm, ready to draw the listener down into the kingdom of the Sealionwoman.
Siren was recorded live, in front of an invited audience, at Soup Studios in London on 5 May 2017. The record was engineered and mixed by Giles Barrett and mastered for vinyl by Eric James at Philosophers Barn. The vinyl edition was pressed by Key Production and comes in a 350g reverse board sleeve, with beautiful print from a wood engraving by Gertrude Hermes, used with the permission of her estate.
“Björk, Billie Holiday and The Anchoress come to mind while listening to Kitty Whitelaw’s exquisite vocals… It’s Mercury Prize bait, this – haunting, monolithic soundscapes…” – Prog
“Siren is a record quite unlike any you will hear this year.” – The Quietus