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AOIFE NESSA FRANCES

Aoife Nessa Frances

Protector

    In spring of 2020, Aoife Nessa Frances moved out of the city for the first time in her life. After packing up her things in Dublin, she moved to rural County Clare on the west coast of Ireland, and there, amidst the stillness, she worked on the songs that would become her second album, Protector. The resulting body of work deftly juxtaposes golden hours and arguments, affection and alienation, and above all marks a crucial period of her life that was transformative and left her wiser.

    "I might have been running away from my problems," she admits. "I was disconnected from myself and from nature, but I found peace far away from the city, where there were no distractions. I isolated myself with nothing to do but make music.” Writing Protector provided Frances an essential sounding board for this journey. "I felt a growing inner strength that guided me through the making of this album. It was like sculpting with my eyes closed, this intense sense of self-preservation leading me and growing with each song I wrote. When I started, I didn't recognise myself. With each song, I became more human.”

    Aoife spent that summer with her dad and two sisters. “It was a very special time for my family as we had never been that tight knit before,” she says, “and we all became very close…driving the country roads and swimming in the Atlantic Ocean and lakes of Clare. I had one CD in my car: Jim Sullivan’s UFO and we listened to it over and over again.” Like many people in their late twenties shaking off youthful rebelliousness, Frances experienced a solidification of familial ties like never before, and felt the formation of a protective, impenetrable shell. “For me, Protector acknowledges the part of myself that steers me towards a brighter path. The almost psychotropic power of nature gave me a connection I never felt before. As the countryside seeped into me and lines of communication opened up with my family, I developed an ability to perceive myself and my choices within an expanded world.”

    Protector builds pastoral landscapes through light flourishes and open spaces. Songs float along effortlessly, remaining anchored by Frances’ deep voice. Contemplative tempos tug along atmospheric synths, minimal bass, and shimmering guitar notes, conveying a serenity like early morning. Frances found that the noiselessness allowed her, at long last, to listen to herself. “I got up every day before sunrise and took my guitar to a place where nobody could hear me,” she discloses. “These songs were written in the magic hour before the world wakes up.”

    Recording took place in a small house in County Kerry, at the foothills of the Annascaul, along with Brendan Jenkinson (producer, keys, bass, synth, clarinet) and Brendan Doherty (drums). “We’d wake up early every day and swim at Inch Beach before making music,” Frances describes. “This ritual was crucial for our process. There was an unexplainable joy happening between the three of us.” The arrangements grew with later contributions from Ailbhe Nic Oiroictaigh (strings), Meabh McKenna (harp), and Conor O’Brien (horns). No matter how it expanded in scope and involvement, Frances never let it stray from a central focus on deep truths. “I wanted my voice to be as up front and dry as possible, to create a sense of raw and powerful vulnerability, like Serge Gainsbourg’s ‘Histoire de Melody Nelson’ where the voice feels right in front of you.”

    Across eight songs, Frances found innovative ways to project her intentions. “Emptiness Follows” carries a striking sense of grace, the playfulness of the track’s instrumentation contrast lyrics about friends drifting apart (“the weight of the water, it holds you and tortures time away from you”). “Soft Lines,” spans weightless and brooding, the shimmer of the musical backdrop like a low-settled fog obscuring one’s way, as Frances sings of the illusion of idealized love (“All that I’d give for a life by your side”). “Chariot” is at the core of the record, a powerful testament to the strength and bonds of family and friendships.

    With Protector, Frances has delivered a glowing act of restoration, informed by the power of connection. The songs find the resonance in the hum of life, trapping glimpses of light and crystalizing them into new modes of being. Each track is a nuanced take on a different subject. “Writing and recording this album was a spiritual experience. I experienced love for my family on a level I didn’t know existed, while slowly putting myself back together and watching the ‘protector’ in me grow much bigger.”


    TRACK LISTING

    Side A
    A1 Way To Say Goodbye
    A2 This Still Life
    A3 Emptiness Follows
    A4 Only Child
    Side B
    B1 Chariot
    B2 Back To Earth
    B3 Soft Lines
    B4 Day Out Of Time

    Aoife Nessa Frances

    Land Of No Junction

      On the eponymously titled final song of her debut album Land of No Junction, Irish songwriter Aoife Nessa Frances (pronounced Ee-fa) sings “Take me to the land of no junction/Before it fades away/Where the roads can never cross/But go their own way.” It is this search that lies at the heart of the album, recalling journeys towards an ever shifting centre - a centre that cannot hold - where maps are constantly being rewritten.

      The evocative phrase is the result of a fortuitous misunderstanding. Reminiscing about childhood visits to Wales, Aoife’s musical collaborator and co-producer Cian Nugent, mentioned a train station called Llandudno Junction, which she misheard. “Land of No Junction later became a place in itself. A liminal space - a dark vast landscape to visit in dreams… A place of waiting where I could sit with uncertainty and accept it. Rejecting the distinct and welcoming the uncertain and the unknown.” Reveals Frances.

      The songs traverse and inhabit this indeterminate landscape: the beginnings of love, moments of loss, discovery, fragility and strength, all intermingle and interact. Land of No Junction is shot through with a sense of mystery - an ambiguity and disorientation that illuminates with smokey luminescence. Yet, through the haze, everything comes down to what, where and who you are. Frances has built a universe full of intimacy and depth, with lyrics written through a process of free thought writing. It lends the record fluidity, each song in dialogue with the next not only through language, but the way each musical choice complements or threads into another.

      Navigated by the richness of Aoife’s voice, along with the layers gently built through her collaborators’ instruments (strings, drums, guitars, keys, percussion), gives a feeling of filling up space into every corner and crack. A remarkable coherent sonic world: buoyant and aqueous, with dark undercurrents. The crossroads as a place where someone can be stuck, static in the face of the future, becomes instead an amorphous realm, where the remnants of the past and what is unknown meld together and come to an understanding. Where nostalgia and newness ebb and flow in equal measure.


      TRACK LISTING

      1. Geranium
      2. Blow Up
      3. Here In The Dark
      4. A Long Dress
      5. Less Is More
      6. Libra
      7. In The End
      8. Heartbreak Junction
      9. Land Of No Junction 


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