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That Thea Gilmore’s latest album is as ethereal as it is thought-provoking, as bewitching as it is bold, will come as no surprise to her army of admirers. Since releasing her debut as a teenager nearly 20 years ago, the Oxfordshire-raised, Cheshire-based singer and songwriter has gained global acclaim for making music not only of extraordinary beauty, but of rare honesty and insight.
What will surprise fans is how The Counterweight sounds. Fifteen albums in, Thea has all but abandoned her trusty acoustic guitar in favour of an iPad and a piano. The change forced her out of her comfort zone in to exploring new methods of composing as well as new ways of recording.
The iPad she had used only sparingly before. The piano, she claims, she can’t play.
While, sonically, The Counterweight marks a fresh start, its outward-looking themes – the shifting political landscape, our absorption in technology, America’s gun culture and the search for hope in times of trouble included. On the day Johnny Gets A Gun was recorded, the MP Jo Cox was shot. The Counterweight’s stately, spine-tingling closer The War includes several direct references to the late Labour MP in a call-to-arms for change.
Despite its hefty themes, The Counterweight is as catchy as it is current, delving in to disco and pure pop and boasting glorious strings, intriguing samples, shimmering soundscapes and pretty piano. Where it might have been mournful, it’s often airy and optimistic. Where it does delve in to darkness, it also glimpses light.
For Thea, music still has the power to incite change.
Some of the biggest names in music visit the banks of the Tyne this May and June while we also have innovative talks and performances as part of Thinking Digital Arts 2017 & Hexham Gathering returns.
Sage Gateshead welcomes some of the finest indie and alternative rock bands from across the world.