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Kitt Philippa recently released the debut album ‘Human’ through Paragon Records. Picking up from the release of their stunning four-track EP ‘You’ – that was released earlier 2019 and featured singles ‘Human’, ‘Grace’ and ‘You’ – the record is an outstanding and emotive work from the winner of the prestigious Northern Irish Music Prize – Single of the Year 2018 (‘Human’).
For Kitt Philippa, the process of putting together their debut album has been one steeped in a desire to capture the push and pull of what it means to be human. As a result, thematically, ‘Human’ largely details what it is to struggle. With one eye focused on the enormity of what this subject matter entails, the other is trained firmly on the smaller details, and how these coalesce to create significant experiences. It is this particular point – the clarity in the detail – that gives ‘Human’ its notable poignancy.
In the same way that the album musically shifts form – through contemplative slow-burns, swirling digital soundscapes, and rousing chorales – so too does the route through the record for the listener, as the outlines are drawn by overarching themes of love, burden, loss, time and place. It is deliberate in its direction but, like the unpredictability of life itself, is punctuated by unintentional moments that bring a ringing consequence to the album. ‘Fahrenheit’ for example, with the weight of its lyrics and intensity of their delivery, addresses the difficulties of interaction, while ‘Lion’s’ smouldering and touching portrayal of strength under the weight of adversity provides one of the album’s highlights. The resulting theme of mental health came along unintentionally – in the same way, it can lurk in amongst the shadows of human emotion.
Elsewhere, Philippa’s talent for devastating songcraft and the conjuring of stark imagery are rarely more in evidence than on ‘Untitled’ and ‘Atlas’. Of ‘Untitled’, they say; “I had a specific image in my head of an older woman wearing a long, dark, heavy coat walking along a street in warm weather. She moved in a slow, measured way. The heat amplified the coat and there was something about its ability to physically conceal. It paralleled mental burdens that are hidden and carried. The end of the song is a prayer for the woman’s safety. The drone is a prominent feature of the track. They were present in a lot of early church chant music and can ground a piece of music like an anchor.” Similarly, ‘Atlas’ comes from a concerning visual scene in a dream, as Philippa continues, “The track knows fear and recognises the need for positive action. Life feels dangerous sometimes. Atlas looks to strength and source(s) of strength.”
Just one of ‘Human’s’ many outstanding qualities is its ability to challenge. It doesn’t claim to have all of the answers, but it asks the right questions as it makes emotive pleas, wrestles with feelings of isolation, and ultimately shows us how Kitt Philippa’s corner of the universe feels.
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