“It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.” This statement, attributed to Pablo Picasso, might just as well apply to Clang Sayne. Their music reveals a wealth of learning and collaboration, but also an excavation of something long-buried under layers of adult life. In this sense, guitarist and lead singer-songwriter Laura Hyland crafts enduring fairytales, while cellist Judith Ring, clarinetist Carolyn Goodwin, and drummer Matthew Jacobson capture quintessential moments in time as portraits of the wider world they inhabit.
The Round Soul of the World is divided into two parts, exploring the lit and unlit faces of the same celestial body. As if in service of that metaphor, it opens with “Curse You, Mocking Moon,” which personifies its titular subject with that same childlike brilliance of which Picasso waxed so philosophically. Emblematic of the group’s ability to not simply capture, but more importantly release honest reflections, it passes through time toward the only true catharsis of stillness. Lighter shades bleed through “This Love.” Here Goodwin’s clarinet breathes like a voice, searching for the words that emerge through Hyland’s articulation. It concerns itself with the ancient heart of new life and the young heart of old life, a perpetuum mobile that caresses every song as if it were a face.
“The Emptying of the Ashes” hides whispers of mourning for broken subjects in shouts of joy until “dealing with” turns into “moving on.” In the wake of this wake, “Blackbird” reweaves a poem by Austin Clarke through a loom of safety. Immovable yet shaken like the boughs of an unavoidable storm, its wings find their way through all conditions, touched by the sunlight of distant horizons and dried to an emotional crisp.
“Requiem” is a likeminded dirge of tangible and metaphysical echoes. Its body is not only an object of decay but also a seed for others to grow, as if each death were a branch for the living. Hence “Newborn,” which moves in shocking relief with self-determined action against a frozen sky. The musicianship is brilliant, treating instruments as visual tools for our elucidation, and floats the title song upon a river of droning cellos, seeking shelter in a world with a crumbling roof. Meanwhile, on the shore we stand, left with more than enough pieces to build shelters of our own, and hearths in which to light the remainders as effigies of who we once were.