An atmosphere of mystery
Irish folk musician Fionn Regan’s latest album entitled Cala is interested in mystery. Regan provides ten tracks which compose a beautifully cohesive work but leave you wondering what exactly they were about. Or better said, they leave you curious to understand better.
“The ocean is a troubadour” Regan sings in “Volca.” With that attitude, he created Cala. Like the ocean, the album is chilling but welcoming. It manages to both feel intimate and mysterious in its distance. “Volca” is powered by a persistent guitar line, which is one of the most prevalent themes on the album. It is the most prominent feature of the song, contributing to the mood even more than Regan’s voice.
Regan’s voice ethereal and gentle, and rarely the most important part of the song. Regan is a skillful songwriter, but the album downplays the importance of the lyrics, favoring instead the atmosphere created by the combination of Regan’s voice and acoustic guitar. That atmosphere of mystery and awe is perhaps only more powerful by the sometimes inscrutability of the lyrics.
Regan plays with the atmospheric theme by adding different instruments. “Volca” has a chilling piano that makes one shiver as from the chill of the ocean. The piano meshes with the rest of the songs sound while also creating tension between the crisp piano and the warmth of Regan’s voice and guitar.
Another element of the album is its frequent percussive sounds. Few songs on the album have actual percussion instruments, “The Ocean Wave” being an exception, but nearly all of them have a percussive element. In “Collar of Fur” and “Brass Locket” the sound of Regan’s fingers on the guitar strings is barely audible, which makes the album feel intimate as if Regan were in your living playing there. “Riverside Heights” sees Regan using his palm on the strings to as a percussion instrument which he plays. Regan explores all these different potential sounds he can get out of an acoustic guitar in a really enjoyable way. He explores what he can get from an acoustic guitar, trying it as a mystery to unravel in much the same way he approaches his subject matter, and the same way we must approach this beautiful record.
The album is mysterious, but rather than off-putting, its mystery is inviting. Regan mimics the ocean, and much like the ocean, Cala never lets up. It continues from the first to the last track unstopping. The percussion makes it so you can feel the movement, not just hear it, and submerge yourself more in its mystery.