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Awake But Always Dreaming


Awake But Always Dreaming is the second album by Irish singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Hannah Peel, produced and recorded with long-term collaborator Erland Cooper, with orchestrations by Peel, in their richly analog studio in London and at Attica Audio Recording in County Donegal, Ireland. This is a work about memory -- the luminous and beautiful formation of memories and the devastating loss or slow, insidious damage to the mind. "I've read 1 in 3 of us will die with dementia, and a third of us are connected to someone with dementia through family and friends," says Peel. "850,000 people in the UK alone have it now and 2 in 3 people affected will be women. It's quite remarkable really, and it's getting worse." Peel has created an exquisite, distinct album of two halves, full of vibrant, direct color in the early stages contrasted with esoteric, dreamscape, legato movements toward the end. The bright, raw magic and joy of personal relationships are set alongside the gradual loss of Peel's grandmother to dementia. A childhood spent in the landscape of the Irish coast inspires a sense of openness in the music, but there's also a complex, darker, percussive thrust to these songs, as adult city life intrudes and, in its own way, inspires. The album has the feel of a dream in which all of daily life is expressed and decoded, from feverish rush hours to the old sunlight of Peel's grandmother's fading memories. She switches from panoramic city images in "Standing On The Roof Of The World" to the dissolving, hallucinogenic moments that define the second half of the album. The album's closer is a cover of "Cars In The Garden" by Paul Buchanan (The Blue Nile), which returns memory to childhood ("find the place that we forgot") and features Peel's trademark music box and a sublimely coaxed-out, bittersweet duet with Hayden Thorpe (Wild Beasts). It's another fine shift in tone and perspective, from the grandeur and chaos of "Foreverest" to something very simple, surreal, and utterly moving.