After nearly half a decade away, a move to the Irish countryside and a consideration of hanging up his musical gloves for a full time move into visual art, Fionn Regan has had a lot to ponder and evaluate over the past five years. His new record The Meetings Of The Waters displays a shift away from the ‘one man and his guitar’ setup of previous work and highlights Regan’s new attachment to more electronic elements, with bigger and bolder sounds accompanying his ever-present talent for lyrics and exceptional vocals.
The album begins with the stunning title-track, which sets an enormous precedent for the rest of the record. It opens with a wonderful Japanese feel, reflecting a constant theme throughout the album – musically, in track-titles and the name of his own label imprint 常に愛TSUNENI AI (which translates to “Always Love” in Japanese). The light plucking of acoustic strings is present from yester-year, accompanied by soft ‘ooh’s’ and Regan’s timeless vocals, before building with an addictive beat, keys, guitar and choral backing-vocals, and then ducking and diving back down. It’s elegant, simple and a delightful opener to the record.
Turn The Skies Of Blue On is a gorgeous, heart-warming little number, whilst new single Cormorant Bird and the beautiful Cape Of Diamonds show signs of Regan’s previous poetic work on the likes of debut The End Of History, but with perfect additions of deep, sweeping orchestral notes and military-esque strikes of the drum on the former, and an incredible, driving rhythm leading to a euphoric and life-affirming crescendo on the latter. Each track offers something new and while some may have been critical of the constant guitar-picking of 100 Acres Of Sycamore and previous record The Bunkhouse Vol I: Anchor Black Tattoo, the meetings of acoustic and electronic on this new effort is finely crafted, making each song unique in its own simple way.
Babushka – Yai Ya is an unexpected but enjoyable upbeat belter, 1 minute 43 seconds of foot-stomping, guitar-walloping noise that ends abruptly, just as you’ve managed to catch up. Regan states that he wrote the track ‘really fast, going from one side of Dublin to the other across the river…I remember leaving a place and tearing a beer mat in half and writing on it, straight away, the whole thing, bang, done’. And why the hell not. It’s electrifying, startling and stunning and despite not exactly fitting with the rest of the record, it forces the listener to sit up straight and take the hit.
The Meetings Of The Waters is quite possibly Regan’s best work since his award-winning debut, and the blend of styles and genres is elegantly done, completely justifying his absence and escape from recording, in order to rediscover himself and head down an uncertain but unexplored path. Granted, there are less exciting moments, particularly following the rowdiness of Babushka when the record returns to being contemplative and tender, but the final tracks still offer special moments. First there is the spaciness and warmth of Wall Of Silver and then the ethereal Up Into The Rafters, which is set to be one of hell of a live number, due largely to the drums’ beating heart of the track, electronic-style organ and Regan’s swooping vocals. The abrupt ending is a little frustrating and might have sounded better fading out, given what’s about to follow, but it’s still a real treat of a song.
The final track is another genre-busting moment, where Regan truly illustrates that he is no more a solo acoustic act. This 12-minute beauty is a haunting, peaceful and almost meditative swirl of sound. There are no vocals, drums or guitar – it’s just you and this swooping, blissful moment, which would ideally be accompanied with a lounge by a stream or the sea, watching the tranquil meetings of the waters…but a lie down on the sofa or in bed is just as pleasant, and after twelve-minutes, you may even find yourself so relaxed that you’ve fallen into a slumber. It’s long, but sod it, it’s lovely!
Fionn Regan may have been away for a good while, but this record has been worth the wait. Sometimes, it’s a long break that can do the world of good for a songwriter (perhaps some others should follow in Regan’s footsteps), and The Meetings Of The Waters highlights how an adoption or change of style can unearth new talents, sounds and recording processes that result in a brand new route. Mind you, after this record, it would be a shame to have to wait another half-decade for more from Fionn Regan.