An open introduction to an honest folk star
Joe Smith
16:16 23rd February 2021

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Inspired by paintings, classical music and an upbringing in a small town in the south of France, Clara Mann's debut EP Consolations is an intimate refuge for both performer and listener, providing the much-needed beauty of a restful solace. Akin to the works of Joni Mitchell and Sibylle Baier, Consolations is a near-perfect debut.

By creating this vision of comfort, Mann is able to create a safe space for herself in which she can become her most vulnerable, a place in which she can hope to find understanding in others. These sonic spaces are full of vivid imagery plucked directly from the paintings of Edward Hopper. Adopting the personas characters found in these paintings, Mann found her creative spirit, and a new-found sense of romanticism: "often I  tried to imagine myself in one of those paintings, to make life a bit more romantic than it really was” she says of her process. This EP may easily evoke comparison to an artist sitting down by their easel, tenderly creating their next work of art. By gently brushing together her love of arts and literature with her love of music, Consolations was born.

The light and lofty ‘Waiting For The Flight’ opens the EP, introducing us fully to Mann’s softly powerful vocals. Lucid acoustic guitar offers Mann an airy partner as she tells a story of an internal struggle of whether to continue travelling or to return to where is familiar. The theme of inner-conflict is one that seems to rear its head often in this body of work, perhaps to signify the many strains that adulthood pushes upon us, even though we feel we may not be ready to fully accept them.

On ‘Thoughtless’ Mann lays her cards out for all to see. Her mesmerising vocals provide layers of gentle vulnerability, unsure even of themselves, eliciting emotions of oddly hopeful grief. Mann also pays tribute to her childhood home here, creating vast visions of water, an ode to the places where she feels the most comfort, with the guitar acting as the swelling of a distant wave before it crashes and dissipates on a forsaken shore.

‘Station Song’ takes us on a narrative journey, following a woman clearly uncomfortable in her current situation. Whether this is an autobiographical song, or a character Mann has created isn’t clear, but nevertheless it’s still incredibly moving. This ‘up for interpretation’ approach is as refreshing as it is unclear, but it adds another layer of curiosity and intrigue to Mann’s music. The muted guitar fades in and out, deliberately unsure of itself, however where the guitar fails to make itself noticed, Mann ensures that her voice and vocal layering never leave the listener feeling like something is missing.

Consolations closes with ‘I Didn’t Know You Were Leaving Today’, a deeply moving passage on an incoming loneliness. It’s a song about longing for distraction: doing anything - no matter how tedious - to avoid the ever-approaching sensation of being alone. Mann’s voice softly quavers, and a bittersweet violin weaves its way through the tracks dismal tenderness.

On Consolations, Clara Mann offers up her vulnerabilities early on, perfectly and correctly unashamed to embrace everything that built her into who she is now. It’s a diaphanous introduction that leaves us eager to hear what comes next.

Consolations EP arrives 24 February via Sad Club Records.

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Photo: Press