From Gardens Where We Feel Secure – Virginia Astley

I mentioned VA in an earlier post on Townshend / Lane as PT is her brother-in-law, and this is perhaps her best known album. Emerging from a trio – the Ravishing Beauties (along with Nicky Holland and Kate St John), who had a delightful version of Wilfred Owen’s futility on an early 80’s compilation, this album from 1983 is unusual but unsurprising give her previous work. Low key – yes – but undeniably beautiful, it’s a series of repetitive and rhythmic piano pieces which build gradually, with the addition of other instruments, clarinet and flutes explore gentle melodic motifs, with the occasional addition of ambient noises taken from nature, birdsong, owls hooting, church bells and even a looped sheep baa. The overall effect is gently hypnotic, with a feel of summers afternoons passing quietly through sitting rooms, curtains are gently stirred by a warm breeze, a place where time is slowed, the England of Edward Bawden and Eric Ravilious rather than a post-punk Thatcherite wasteland. No bad thing for all that. Feel tired and stressed? Sick of the rapid pace of life? Litter in the hedgerows? Take some time to listen to this and feel a hell of a lot better.

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