INTERVIEW: Madeleine Smyth | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Alt. electronic pop artist Madeleine Smyth is to release her second EP, Brigid, this month. The musician, originally from Hartlepool and now based in Newcastle, has created a stunning collection, combining synth sounds and viola with her own soulful vocals. With a penchant for electronic beats and strings, her songs are an audible painting of an entire landscape. 

The first track, Goldman Sachs, is mysterious and aching, beautifully dark, full of layered vocals that feel raw and gritty yet delicate. The title of the song is curious. “I started writing the song in the first lockdown,” reflects Madeleine, “Goldman Sachs is a multinational investment bank, I think I saw something about it on the news and I just thought it was a cool sounding name, and it just stuck! After completing the song, the lyrics kind of nod towards the futility of capitalism during a pandemic and the imminence of climate change, so I kept the name because I thought it sort of fit in a weird way.” Lyrically, the themes in Goldman Sachs also tie into the rest of the EP, with thoughts around climate change, landscapes and religion; one of Madeleine’s hopes is that people will take something away from these themes. 

Madeleine’s debut EP, Covert, was released in December 2019, and listening back to it you can already hear her defining sound coming through. Brigid builds on her first works to create a much stronger, meticulous presence that still creates those stunning vistas but with even more precision.     

I feel like a lot of people turned to nature in the pandemic as a way to cope with what was happening in the world

In all the tracks, there is a feeling of wide-open space, drawing the listener into some deep forest or cold Northern lake. The opening few notes of Stubborn sound exactly like its name; eerie, melancholic against a driven, electronic beat, with frustrated strings and syncopated lyrical vocals. The title track will make your hair stand on end with its dramatic, tense vibrato riser and earthy voices crying in the distance, like strange sirens on the sea before a dance beat enters underneath. 

Madeleine also works with the moving image to create visual art pieces, with a short film about the wildlife found around the Tees Estuary and its relationship with the industry there screened in March. I also made the music/soundtrack for the film,” shares Madeleine. “For this I went out and did field recordings, recording the sea, birds etc. I then used these to create sounds and added music to it. I also interviewed people talking about the area and incorporated that into the music/soundscape, and kind of formed a narrative. I think the sound and images were very intertwined in this project, but I would like to do more narrative-based filming in the future too.”

Themes of nature and environment are clearly recurring motifs in Madeleine’s work. I feel like a lot of people turned to nature in the pandemic as a way to cope with what was happening in the world. I have always enjoyed wildlife and flowers but the pandemic made me realise how important it is to appreciate and respect the natural world, because it is essential to life. I also had more time to appreciate and reflect the environment around me. I think the pandemic also highlighted the seriousness of the climate change crisis and how imminent it is.”

Madeleine Smyth’s EP, Brigid, is released on 27th May.

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