“Ligne de fuite” as they say in France.
“Fuite covers not only the act of fleeing or eluding, but also flowing, leaking, and disappearing in the distance (the vanishing point in a painting is a point de fuite). It has no relation to flying.”
Born in the seemingly infertile soil of a pandemic, when human contact, even with those closest to us, was forbidden, Lines Of Flight managed to find a way to elude the horror, to find a means by which creativity could flow, and where ideas, memories, and hopes, could leak from the hearts of the two protagonists in the story, Matthew Henderson and Helen Whale.
During those first, most awful, months of lockdown, the two, remotely, connected and created a series of songs that would, ultimately, form the bulk of this astonishing debut album. When other people lied, to themselves and to everyone else, about how they were going to use the enforced isolation of lockdown, to write that novel, learn a language, lose weight, blah, blah, blah… Henderson and Whale decided, instead, to be honest with themselves, with each other, and with whoever might find them.
Honesty is always the best policy.
“Signs of Life'' is, taken as a whole, a hymn to the virtue and value of honesty…there is no sleight of hand here, no fake tales of lives never lived. Here are songs for the heart, born from the heart, and precision engineered to fix your broken heart.
The first song on the album, and the first song they wrote together, “Birthing Bell” was inspired by the year that Whale spent living on Rathlin Island, a place where, when a baby is born to an island family in a mainland hospital, the islanders gather at the harbour to welcome them home. The island also has a dark history with a massacre taking place in 1575; “For this song I juxtaposed these moments of birth and death, despair and joy, against this darker past.”
“Moth Eaten Heart” is a song about relationships, but as with all the best songs about relationships it is also about so much more. “It’s about finding escape, and solace, in a new place and relationship, and the attempts to weave myself into the fabric of a life wholly different from everything I’d known before. It is an attempt to chart the difficulty in doing that, and how life can gradually tear at the seams of everything you’ve created with someone, and then you start to move away from each other, and the ties you have created start to erode.” says Helen.
A different type of relationship lies at the heart of “Heading Out To You”. “This song came about following a drive out to the east coast. I was reminded of driving up Sutton Bank in the snow, in a wonderful old car that my dad drove - a 1970’s Datsun Laurel. It felt so luxurious! At the time I was driving to a party and all the anxieties of that I had as a teenager but in the song, I repositioned it to be my final drive to reach my dad. To be reunited with him, in his car - to travel to the ‘other side’ as referenced in the song.”
When I travelled from my home in Edinburgh to see the band make their live debut in Leeds, Matthew spoke to me about writing lyrics in words of three syllables. A technique designed to ensure that every word mattered. I tried to employ this technique in my first review of that gig, without any real success. On “I Remember Everything”, he gives a masterclass in how to say it all, without needing to say it all…”A reflection on the changing times, emerging voices in the face of paranoia, systems of control and the barrage of information we receive on a minute by minute basis. Each line is restricted to three syllables, to give everything impact and urgency.”
It is the willingness to say something, to say things with thought and care, to find new ways to say these things, that elevates Lines Of Flight above the herd. But perhaps their greatest skill, their most beautiful gift, has been to deliver these songs with electronic sounds, sounds that can, often, be cold and sterile, but which here are as warm, and as intimate, as any soul of folk record you can bring to mind.
All of this is perfectly captured on the album closer, “Listening Land”. “A collage of different memories and feelings evoked by the heaviness of a hot summer’s day. Themes of absence and time, from the slow plod of idling, heartbroken days as a teenager, to the absences brought into sharp relief by the tracking of landscapes over aeons. The cranes and the “listening land” are a reference to Aldo Leopold’s, hauntingly beautiful, “Marshland Elegy”. Just take a moment to think about that. Absence, time, heartbreak, landscapes shifting and changing, Aldo Leopold. If you desire something more from music than the moribund, if you have care for the careful, if you have need of healing, this is your album.
Find out more about Lines Of Flight at their Bancamp page here.