FOLKS’ SONGS is a new EP from the world of Scottish trans music-making, created by OVER/AT – a project lovingly curated by composer Rufus Isabel Elliot. It includes three new songs from three Scotland-based trans, non-binary, or other gender-minority artists. The EP highlights the various ways in which trans, non-binary, and other gender-minority people can use their voices. It features musicians ranging from punk backgrounds to trad, and focuses on the beauty of untrained and unheard voices freeforming outside of social expectations.
The opening track, Malin Lewis’ ‘Are We?’ is earthy and grounded. It builds in intensity, and then fades as quickly as it began, feeling almost like a dream. The polarising phrases ‘I’m not who you think I am. I am who you think I am.’ really gripped me and the statements lingered and alternated in my brain long after the end of the track.
Matthew Arthur Williams and Joel Cu’s ‘ASKING’ also utilises speech: ‘You’re asking too many questions.’ repeats over a rhythmic and driving yet ambient synth track. A sentiment that feels so immediately understandable for those who are gender non-conforming, trans, or marginalised. The need to explain yourself consistently is exhausting; the anxiety of entering new spaces and then having to do it all over again. Yet there is a comfort to this track, and it creates a feeling of being understood when overwhelmed; the boiling down of so many emotions into a single sentence.
The first movement of Harry Josephine Giles and Vivien Holmes’ ‘Out of Existence’ is a lo-fi chaos of timbral ambiguity. It’s almost overwhelming to listen to over headphones. The fourth movement’s looping synth waltz reminds me of the surreal animations of those from as XPloshi, or Stanhatesyou – treading the line between comforting and familiar and uneasy, unstable, unsettling. There is something so powerful in embracing an aesthetic that is intentionally ‘bad’.
The bonus track, Matthew Arthur Williams’ ‘FEELS’, seems almost like an uplifting palate cleanser, comparatively, and it’s beautiful. It makes me think of that feeling when you have spent the day outside when it’s sunny, and when you go in for a lie down for some reason you’re a little melancholy – perhaps because tomorrow won’t be as nice. It feels warmly nostalgic; the kind of nostalgia you can’t place to a particular moment, but which provides an overall feeling of blankety sonic comfort.
This EP is a vital snapshot of the simultaneous beauty and complexity of transness. The pieces both contrast each other, while complementing one another with an aesthetic coherence. It’s immensely genuine, refreshing, necessary, and intimate. I intend to re-listen and reflect, and I highly recommend this compilation to all those with open ears and hearts.