By Mags Blackburn
After listening and re-listening to The Hard Ground’s ‘Triptych: One’ many including myself have been waiting (me impatiently) for the second instalment of the musical project undertaken by the Cork band. ‘Triptych: Two’ has arrived and it has lived up to the high expectations set by its predecessor.
A Triptych is a piece divided into three sections where all three can be displayed or just one. This project of the Triptych by The Hard Ground is an experiment of sorts. Each EP is written and recorded in real-time following the progress and experiences of the band. The project will open wide the process of art making, bringing listener, band and industry together to share in the experience. By the end there will be three sections, that fit together and that also stand alone.
The Hard Ground continue to use their signature backing harmonies to meld the contrasting verses from Marlene Enright and Pat Carey. ‘Capon’ acts as a hinge between ‘Triptych: One’ and ‘Triptych: Two’ continuing in the Americana vein and again it is Marlene who leads us down the path as she did on the first. The band not only use to great affect the harmonious vocals as refrains, with the call- and-response between the two protagonists, but are also masters of scene setting. “Walking with a limp into the morning haze”.
On ‘Coin Toss’ we see even more clearly the counterpoint where gravel meets glass as Pat and Marlene go back and forth with each other before splashy drums, buzzy bass and blues guitar join them. And just when you got into the swing of things they turn everything on its head. Which is appropriate when you consider the band are asking, “what happens when truth dies?”
‘Triptych: Two’ is the tonal opposite of its predecessor exploring darker themes and subjects. And nowhere is this clearer than in Marlene’s plaintive pleas on the first single ‘Deep in Green’. “How long can you stay in the battle/ not getting what you’re after?” she asks. We reach the climax of the song and EP at this point where the juxtaposition between the desperation of the question and Marlene’s soaring vocal stuns you into contemplation. The track then fades out to a rockier refrain.
‘All in Time’ brings the EP to a close but not without bringing some surprising touches of its own. Including accordion and harp into the instrumentation The Hard Ground bring lightness and positivity to this track. Even in darkness there is light and this track ensures ‘Triptych: Two’ ends on a positive note for us to reflect on. And if you were to consider this in the wider context of the project ‘All in Time’ surely will act as a hinge to the next section ‘Triptych: Three’.
The Hard Ground are a group obsessed with numbers and their wider relevancy. We already have the two protagonists, the hard and soft, dark and light, stone and glass. There is the Triptych itself, the idea of choosing to see the whole story or just a part of it. Then like any Greek tragedy we have the comedy, the tragedy and the satyr and I for one cannot wait to see how this one ends.
The second EP ‘Triptych: Two’ of the Triptych album project will be released exclusively for digital download on September 12th. The first single ‘Deep in Green’ will be released September 8th.