I took the above title from a description of Hypatia of Alexandria, the 4th century CE philosopher mathematician, and one of the greatest women of classical antiquity, but it applies equally well to the other Hypatia, who I am introducing this evening. This Hypatia is the brilliant new album by Dublin-based, singer-songwriter Syd Lane (pictured).
Syd Lane has been writing and recording music in her own home-studio for the past seven years, and in that time has released eight full-length records, all of which she has released for free. Many of you will, no doubt, be familiar with her as one of the recurring artists on the excellent Daydream Generation compilations released through the lovely, Scottish-based, Quixodelic Records label.
Originally, however, Syd formed a creative collective in 2004 with poet Jeremiah James under the name The Loaded Whispers. Later the duo changed their name to Chansons De Geste, but the dynamic remained the same with Syd writing, arranging, recording, and performing all of the music and Jeremiah James providing lyrics. The songs they recorded can be heard and downloaded for free at the respective last.fm pages as well as at Syd's tumblr page and the Quixodelic Records site. Do check them out as they are very, very good.
Nowadays, Syd records her music under the Syd Lane name and describes herself as; "a recluse preferring to write and record songs in my home studio than to play many gigs."
So, while you can't expect to see her at your local venue any time soon, at least give thanks that she is still writing and recording because, quite frankly, whatever name she chooses to give herself this is one very special talent. Syd Lane's music can be hard to pin down as it often shifts brilliantly from genre to genre but basically it should appeal if you like dreamy, psychedelic folk-pop with beautifully harmonised female vocals.
The new album, Hypatia, contains 12 tracks, each given a single feminine name and, even now after listening to it several times, I'm hard pushed to pick out favourites. Every song seems to come replete with a clever, unusual arrangement but still manages to contain a catchy melody. The lyrics are dense, implicative and pregnant with myth and meaning. It's the sort of album that will bear repeated listenings as slowly and magically the full hidden treasure of each song is revealed. But don't take my word for it, after much thought, I've embedded three tracks below to illustrate what I mean.
First up, conventionally enough, is track one; Maya. This is a hymn to the mystical concept in Hinduism which manifests, perpetuates and governs the illusion and dream of duality in the phenomenal universe. And what's more, it opens with 'In Heaven (the lady in the radiator song)' from David Lynch's incomparable 1977 classic Eraserhead; any song that incorporates that particular cultural nugget was always going to be a Streetlamp team favourite.
The next song I'd like to feature is track 7; the short and much more playful 'Kate'. This song owes an obvious debt to the kooky pastoralism of Syd Barrett, and again this was bound to immediately endear it to the Streetlampers.
Finally, here's track 9; Siren. This is a cover version of Tim Buckley's renowned and remarkable Song to the Siren. It's generally agreed that this is Buckley's greatest song and I, personally, absolutely adore the This Mortal Coil version (which interestingly enough featured on another David Lynch masterpiece; 1997's Lost Highway). However, the Syd Lane version stands it's own ground in this accomplished company. Syd's ethereal, gossamer-light vocal floats over the top of a doomy, bassy accordian/organ accompaniment. It's the song I love, but played as a funereal sea-shanty; and you know what? I love it even more.
Hypatia is available as a free download on Syd Lane's bandcamp page or, if you like, you can donate a little money. As regards her attitude to art and commerce Syd has this to say:
"So I recently joined bandcamp.com. On the front page, there are praises being sung by users of the site, and on more than one occasion I have seen musicians referring to their customers.
I don’t like the idea of musicians and artists having customers. Something about that makes me feel strange and uncomfortable.
I have set my records for free, and there is also an option to donate upon downloading if you like. I’ve done that because over the years people have wanted to have a way to send me money for my music. Certain people have felt wrong about taking it for nothing, and have asked me to allow them to send money. I appreciate the thought behind this - it’s a beautiful idea that they want to support me to continue making music. But I personally love to give my music away for nothing, I don’t like having a price on it… There is no price in the world that could denote all of my thoughts and dreams and tears and love going into these songs."
I think that is a beautiful, well-expressed and profound sentiment; much like a Syd Lane song, in fact.