Vigils is a record that sits somewhere between a lyrical romanticism, and something more abstract. The palette is piano, strings, guitar, ambience, but it is this balance between almost-too-lush melodies and sparser, colder passages that make this record so attractive. The rippling piano patterns of The Human Voice and Accretions contrast with the looser, darker Vigils pieces scattered across both sides, where rounded spacious piano playing (at times recalling Birkin collaborator Nils Frahm) is set against the rising tides of ascending strings.
The play between the record’s two halves is focused by the song Moonbathing. Appearing at first as a logical extension of the more lyrical thematic pieces (appropriate too; Birkin’s last project was the project Songs For Spoken Words with words by Michael Oliver Frearson), much in the same way that the lyric piece Another Glacier appears on Peter Broderick’s Float record; Moonbathing starts simply but by the end has layered its vocals into a warm fuzzy cloud, dropping away at the last second to reveal the line:
Now I remember why ghosts like the dark and you don’t. A lighter cousin perhaps, of Zelienople’s excellent Colored?
By restricting the vocals to one track only, Birkin allows the rest of the album to suggest lyrics, thoughts, interpretations, rather than the more explicit music and texts of Songs For Spoken Words, and the result is a confident, mature work of contemporary chamber music. Chamber music because, as the title suggests, it evokes small spaces and contemplation; a record to live with. Beautifully recorded and played, Vigils is an exciting addition to Birkin’s expanding discography. Where he goes next should be very interesting.