P.G. Six “Murmurs & Whispers”

Drag City, 2023

Magical, mystical and totally beautiful music.

Pat Gubler – who is the folk singer P.G. Six – hasn’t released a full length album for 12 years, but this return is marked out as something of a masterpiece of restrained and ominous folk. The nine songs on ‘Murmurs & Whispers‘ are characterised by low key harp and guitar playing, intermixed with sweeps of electronic sound, white noise layers that bring the relentless feel of the wind or the sea to the album. The songs are new, but many of them have a recognisable root to them – most notably on ‘Tell Me Death‘ which recalls ‘Death and The Lady‘, a song often associated with Shirley Collins and that’s another touchstone to keep in mind. The opening ‘Leaves‘ has a ringing harp refrain, it’s a song that intertwines love and passion and being in-tune with the natural world. The melody isn’t too far from ‘The Snows they melt the soonest‘, the feel isn’t too far from the soundtrack to ‘The Wicker Man.’

By its very nature the harp brings a medieval feel to the album, ‘I Have A House‘ by contrast is a blend of drones – with an opening synthesized drone soon joined by the ancient sound of the hurdy-gurdy.  Pat Gubler sings of the many wonders of the house, his voice taking on the character of  a ritual chanting, a feel further embellished when the vocal is multi-tracked allowing for thoughts to cross over each other.  It’s somewhat reminiscent in feel to ‘Mind Gardens‘ by The Byrds, although here it describes an impossibly idealised dwelling, like a heavenly home.  Even on a relatively modern sounding song like ‘Barley Wine‘ with its finger-picked acoustic guitar accompaniment, there is an ancient thread running through it all, with echoes of ancient songs.

On what is a beautiful album there is one song that really stands heads and shoulders above the rest, good as they are. ‘Tell Me Death‘ is a conversation between the heartbroken sole survivor of a family and the personification of Death who has relentlessly picked off his relations. On the one side there is sadness: “Death took my Father before I here was born / Death took away my Mother before I was shorn / Death took my wife and my only son / Tell me Death, why am I the fortunate one?” On the other side there is pitiless disinterest: “When I took your Father it was just for fun / When I took away your Mother it could have been anyone / I took your wife and child just for something to do / Tell me now, what use have I for you?”  It’s unearthly and magical, riven with sorrow and grief – a sombre acknowledgement of the fleet passage of time and the perpetually precarious nature of life. It a song that crowns one of the most memorable albums of the year.


About Jonathan Aird 2694 Articles
Sure, I could climb high in a tree, or go to Skye on my holiday. I could be happy. All I really want is the excitement of first hearing The Byrds, the amazement of decades of Dylan's music, or the thrill of seeing a band like The Long Ryders live. That's not much to ask, is it?
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