words by maria sledmere
Setting out for the ‘wind-honed archipelago’ of Orkney, Scotland, Kathleen Jamie in Findings writes: ‘Secretly, I’d been hoping for a moment at sea where there was no human light. […] I wanted to be out in the night wind, in wholesome, unbanished darkness’. There is something of this longing within all of us, perhaps an evolutionary throwback that desires a void complete, a solitary embrace that tightens our sense of presence, of being in the world. The ocean offers its oxymoronic violence and stasis, a threat of rupture imbued within each wave. We breathe and breathe and yet still we are restless as the turning sea, its interminable landscape providing the stage for very human dramas—the tide-wracked furies of severance and connection.
Unveiled today, alongside the news that Diane’s brand new album ‘Cusp’ will be released on February 9th via AllPoints (which can pre-ordered here) new single ‘Émigré’ sees the California-born Alela Diane respond to the ongoing, international refugee crisis by plunging us among the merciless seas: “I hear yelling I hear crying I her praying / As the ocean threatens us on all four sides / the water rises deeper every minute / this vessel cannot bear the burden of our love”. Diane has long been writing about love, loss, nature and memory, bittersweet subjects birthing their emotional debris through bluesy croons and comforting folk serenity. On ‘Émigré’, however, the personal feels more intimately political; the inhuman force of the sea stands for the propulsions of capital, nation and economic flow which propel so many people “across the borderlines”, torn from home to greater unknowns.
‘Émigré’ is a questioning song, buoying as the tremulous weather which converses with the sea’s uncertainty. Diane’s quietly passionate melody lilts over rich deep twangs that rise into aching legato strings, falling with vocal harmonies which ascend and descend again and again like seabirds circling back towards water, its scintillating closure. The video, directed by Michael Palmieri, pitches its simple image—a mother (Diane herself) protectively cradling her baby—against the swirling currents of its urgent subject. There’s a softness of flesh, the heavy gaze of the mother’s eyes, her clean hands clutching the child against harm, lips parting to mouth the lyrics in slow delay. Her look is sorrowful, the baby’s wide and adoring. It’s a universal, timeless embrace; one that hangs heavy over the tragedy of so many people lost at sea, unable to access this warm domesticity. Such innocence strikes emphasis on the plight of others. With ‘Émigré’, Diane approaches a complex topic with great sensitivity, that folk singer’s traditional knack for narrating the political within the personal, offering social commentary along the emotional, physical and symbolic planes which shape real experience.
While Jamie actively seeks danger, momentarily, in the comfort of darkness, others find such oceanic abyss thrust fast upon them. Listening to Alela Diane’s new single, we experience both worlds: at once the sensuous, rolling contours of song; then also the crisis, swallowing the world in its perilous halo of night. With lyric grace, empathy and visual restraint, she’s made something to answer the human calls beyond us, whole constellations of moving voices and bodies, out there somewhere in the salty wind, a very human light.
Check out the new video below right now; scroll a little further to see as a host of new tour dates, including a special show at London’s Union Chapel on April 12th.
– Buy tickets here –
27 Jan: Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow (Celtic Connections) – UK
28 Jan: The Mackintosh Church, Glasgow (Celtic Connections) – UK
29 Jan: Vondelkerk, Amsterdam – Netherlands (SOLD OUT)
31 Jan: St. Pancras Old Church, London – UK (SOLD OUT)
12 April: Union Chapel, London – UK
13 April: Vooruit, Gent – Belgium
14 April: Doornroosje, Nijmegen – Netherlands
16 April: Hauskonzerte, Munich – Germany
17 April: Brotfabrik, Frankfurt – Germany
18 April: Heimathafen, Berlin – Germany
19 April: Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg – Germany
21 April: Motel Mozaique, Rotterdam – Netherlands
22 April: Het Zonnehuis, Amsterdam – Netherlands
24 April: Theatre de L’ideal, Tourcoing – France
25 April: Stereolux, Nantes – France
26 April: La Cigale, Paris – France