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Post-punk poet Sinead O'Brien faces down life's stagnant gridlocks on “Limbo”

24 October 2019, 16:00 | Written by Olivia Swash

Limerick-born Sinead O'Brien has released the headstrong “Limbo”, the second side of her AA release on Chess Club Records, complementing last month's “A Thing You Call Joy”.

Following this summer's Speedy Wunderground-released stunner “Taking On Time”, the second part to Sinead O'Brien's double release details a strong-willed struggle of fighting through a period of static boredom. “Limbo” sees the now London-based artist determined to escape feeling listless (“It's the wish of the weak to stay still / it's the will of the brave to go higher”), and struggle to push through drudgery of routine.

“Written while living in a shared mansion in Hampstead, the scenery of my everyday routine became the backdrop to this 'Limbo' state. Stuck in static,” explains O'Brien. “Words catch onto branches, flowers illuminate the hill walk home, and the rubbish. On the street - so close to the flowers.”

“'Limbo' is not a resolute piece of work, is it a clue, an idea I have began to chase down and open up. I saw the passing of days unmarked, and moments unnoticed, the in between was brimming to the surface so that I could no longer ignore it!

“There is a need to get on top of my experiences and to reclaim them in my own words and to get above everyday. I am forced to relive and revisit memory to get somewhere outside of the static. I revisit the same landscapes over and over making a ritual of the routine. The 'Limbo' state is a place where subtle signs, gestures and motions begin to gain importance. Between two two pillars lies limbo.

“The underlying motivation or idea in 'Limbo' is the hook which follows itself to the end of the piece,” O'Brien says of the line “Do days like this hurt the head / Or do days like this help?”. She asks: “How do you make progress and turn the wheel to get out of a static place? There is a heavy presence in the piece of obstacles which create a lot of tension and the lyrics charge directly through, desperate for some light.”

O'Brien thoughtfully wrote and recorded parts of the wording to convey the track's restlessness and anxiety through heavy, breathy sounds. “Performing this piece is almost dizzying,” she explains, “it’s frenzied because I packed all of these heavy ‘h’ sounds so close together in the lyrics. But I like that - to hear breathing, gasping and any struggle involved in the delivery. I wanted to get all of that down on the recording.”

The release is accompanied by visuals depicting the interwoven complexities of a group of characters. “She focuses on in-between moments,” explains O'Brien, “giving importance to a change in expression, lighting, a gesture, a personal habit. The themes in the film continue through to the editing style, focusing on reflecting the swirl of thoughts that can exist in the mind at any given moment. This feeling is visualised through the pacing of the cuts. A deluge of imagery floods the screen, pushing the audience to become embedded in their own mental state of 'Limbo'”.

O'Brien worked with her regular collaborator and friend, former Maccabees member Will White, who was at the helm of mixing and producing the track in his Peckham studio. “I always approach working with Sinead with the intention of pushing the music towards breaking point,” says White. “From there I feel her words and the music find a meeting place.”

“Limbo” is out today via Chess Club Records, and is available to pre-order as a limited 10". Catch her live in October on 25 at Southbank Centre and 26 at Roundhouse Rising, and find her other live dates, including with Pond, Whenyoung and Egyptian Blue, on Sinead O'Brien's Facebook.
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