words by maria sledmere
Listening to ‘Father’, the entrancing new single from Ellis May, it’s difficult not to find yourself following the murky lines of a distant hillside, synchronised by euphonious cadence then slowly being swallowed by mist. To find yourself looking outwards for something you know is there, but whose shape keeps eluding in this wispy veil of atmospheric amnesia. With its spooky, minimalist piano and May’s voice, oscillating between breathily faint and darkly assured, the song conjures a melancholy landscape in which the past and present are all of the same flickering shadow.
“Father is the most personal work I have done. Its about loss. Its about carrying on. Its about acceptance, and about how accepting things will move you forward, and get you through hard times and push you onto your own path.”
– Ellis May
May (real name Sophia Maj) is a singer, composer, producer and sound designer. She hails from Copenhagan, Denmark and premiered her first two singles earlier this year: the murmuring, sensual crescendo of ‘Surrender’ and debut ‘Old Love’, a brooding love song built over loops of playful piano. While these tracks were certainly mesmerising, with just the right twist of Hannah Peel-style carnivalesque beats and analogue experimentation, ‘Father’ has an intensity that makes the world fall away for all of its 5:28 minute duration.
It’s the kind of song you’d cut right out of a mountain like a ribboning river, only to find its sultry essence duly dissolved in your fingers – it draws you along, swelling, then echoes out of sight. In lieu of building to climax, ‘Father’ continues its lush vocal trajectories over soft piano, a pedal spreading resonance deep underneath. Above those eerie tremors, there’s the sense of a need to continue a journey, chasing some quivering glow in the gloom: “I’m gonna swim long distances / but I know I’m gonna reach a peaceful shore.” Its quiet grief, pensive reflection and hypnotic vocal tremolos recall Kathryn Joseph at her most intimate – sonorous enough to fill whole Highland valleys without even disturbing the cattle. Hope appears in parallax throughout the melody’s expansive darkness, but finally blooms in full view at the end with ethereal chorus and shimmering piano, leading us to light.
Ellis May plays at Eurosonic in January, which will showcase more than twenty Danish acts across the event. Find more details about it here and listen to her incredible new track below right now.