Mark Loughrey left Belfast for Berlin after self-releasing his debut album, Treppenwitz, in 2017. Now three years later, On Through the Veil Anew features the growth the folk singer song-writer has gone through living in a city vibrant with electronic and psychedelic influences. While the new EP sticks close to the folk roots set in his debut album, the delivery is far more experimental. The five song EP is built off of Loughrey’s base of multi-instrumental talents with guitars and piano to synth and harmonica, and so much more between. On top of this the EP features a variety of other artists layered between giving every song a much bigger sound compared to traditional folk albums. It’s an odd mix of orchestral and psychedelic sounds woven into folk lyrics and melodies. It evokes sounds similar to Noah and the Whale’s First Days of Spring, but with a 2020 twist.
The album begins with a short instrumental song, Aufmerksamkeit, the German word for “attention”. It definitely brings attention to the experimental direction of the EP with the use of sampling. The sounds are taken from a street market in Berlin frequented by Loughrey. The sounds of locals chatting and walking are clear enough to give you a sense of the time and place, one often missed this year, but it’s gentle enough that it doesn’t over power the mix of instruments. It’s followed by Nothing On A Truth. The song begins the steady stream of calming harmonies that follow through the rest of the EP. Despite its calming effect, it’s but no means a quiet song. The dreamy-ness in these songs don’t take away from the layers of strings.
A Snake With A Tale for A Mouth is the first single released earlier in December, which is also on the EP. This song truly represents the overall direction of the EP best. The lyrics and style of vocals are what would be expected from a modern Irish folk artist. The lyrics are full of ramblings and questions, reminiscent of drunken conversations near last call at the local pub. Yet the actual song has just hints of synth which elevate the song to a fantasy like state. Two Sides O’ The Same Ha’penny is similar in its connection to Loughrey’s Irish roots. Like a lot of folk songs the more upbeat rolling melodies (compared to the other songs on the EP) is just a mask for the heavy melancholic lyrics.
However the strongest and most relevant song is surely Pink Elephants. For many this year can be seen as a string of drunken hallucinations and lyrics like “Why do others come alive at night, only see the world by laptop light” give goosebumps looking back at a year that seemed to defy concepts of day and night. Aside from the witty and genuine lyrics, the vocal harmonies with the sampling of outdoor noises makes the six minute song feel a lot shorter than it really is.
The mix of featured artists on the EP from Belfast and Berlin offer a concrete view into how Mark Loughrey’s sound has growth through the past three years. On Through the Veil Anew is a welcome change to the modern folk music scene.