Known for her art-rock compositions with Goya Dress and the more straightforward pop songwriting of her solo career, Shetland-born Astrid Williamson returns to the classical musical training of her formative years to present Requiem and Gallipoli. A ten-piece set of orchestral compositions written by Williamson herself, Requiem and Gallipoli is a crystalline example of the songwriter’s talents as a composer.
Her work with the atmospheric and dramatic alternative rock outfit Goya Dress established Williamson’s skill in combining the storms of pop-rock structures with the understated and moody arrangements of a string section. The artist further expressed classical designs in her follow-up solo work, always within a pop context.
Distilled down to its purest lesson in classical and sacred music, Requiem and Gallipoli explores themes of transcendence in the wake post-traumatic stress disorder. Originally conceived as an extension of the practices of the David Lynch Foundation (a charitable organization which teaches those living with PTSD forms of mantra meditation to help combat debilitating stress), Requiem and Gallipoli, on its own, is an exercise in spiritual profundity and mines similar terrain explored by such composers like Arvo Pärt, Henrik Górecki and Sofia Gubaidulina.
According to Williamson, the writing process was arduous but automatic. “I would translate each movement from Latin, then start writing the music at the piano, later orchestrating and singing each individual voice… it was incredibly intuitive work—the music seemed to unfurl before me.”
Haunting and byzantine in its emotional complexity, Requiem and Gallipoli opens up not only Williamson’s songwriting talents to new worlds, but also her voice. Known for her distinctive tone, Williamson’s singing here offers deeper dimensions that could never be explored within the constructs of popular music. Drawing upon themes of liberation and renewal, “In Paradisum” proposes a layered dream calling from a space of imagined reality. Williamson’s voice is the haunted vessel sailing into the realm of dreamed sounds.
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