Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Cyclamen finds Nuria Graham reaching for fantastically ambitious new heights


Release date: 20 February 2023
Nuria graham cyclamen art
07 February 2023, 00:00 Written by Tom Williams

In a 2018 interview, then-21-year-old Nuria Graham said that “nothing specific” inspired her music writing, but that “everything inspired me at the same time”.

Such has always been evident in her music – from her eagerness to explore unfamiliar sounds to her eclectic lyrical inspirations, which range from the elements and diaristic recollections to the mystical and intangible.

On her fourth album, Cyclamen, the Irish-Catalan musician reaches fantastically ambitious new heights; delivering a jazzy assortment of strings, horns, keyboards and synths and tales filled with surreal imagery but grounded by real human emotion.

The enigmatic “Fire Mountain Oh Sacred Ancient Fountain” is infused with mystery – a bouncy, harp and finger-picked guitar-led number, it tells of awakening a seemingly supernatural force beyond human comprehension; filled with imagery of violent weather phenomena and unforgiving deities – of storms that endlessly swallow “these countless days” and sins that cannot be hidden from God. The lyrics read as a eulogy for a world approaching destruction and an ode for finding beauty amidst devastation. The affecting fourth verse tells of “the orange river meet[ing] the tide” resulting in an “explosion of white”, but while everyone runs, our narrator stops and examines the scene, exclaiming “Look, there’s our love in a little particle!” It’s a reminder that even among Biblical levels of catastrophe, there’s grace to be found.

Graham spends much of Cyclamen surveying various wreckages – telling of maligned doomsayers being vindicated (“Birdman”) and of entire towns facing doom (“Disaster in Napoli”). Through both her words and sounds, the images she conjures up in the process are reliably sensory - on the peppy highlight, “The Catalyst”, she describes herself as “the real water of your mist”. Blake Mills co-write “Poisonous Sunflower” evokes taste once again, as Graham wonders aloud as to what “made my tongue change shape? / And left me with this taste”. It’s a hugely evocative couplet that speaks to a profound sense of displacement. Meanwhile, the flutes that backdrop the ritualistic repetitions at the end of the aforementioned foreboding “Fire Mountain” heighten the existing sense of unease; turning it into something physical and visceral.

Cyclamen would threaten to collapse under the weight of its heavy subject matter if it wasn't for carefully placed moments of levity, as well as Graham’s enduring refusal to take herself too seriously. On “The Catalyst”, she pokes fun at her “stupid Catalan-English”, while on “Yes It’s Me, The Goldfish!”, she re-tells a story of a woman burnt in an accident, before cavalierly sighing, “How fucked up is that?” The moment speaks to the LP’s central appeal - Cyclamen is immaculately crafted and the arrangements themselves would be worthy of praise regardless of whose name was attached to them, but it’s Graham’s razor-sharp lyricism and vivid vocal delivery that gives the music real heart and therefore makes the LP worthy of listeners time.

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