ep review ~ 'broken to be rebuilt' ~ katharine philippa

Despite being a somewhat enigmatic figure, Katharine Philippa is no newcomer to the music scene in Northern Ireland. Having released her first EP 'Fallen' in 2011, and recently graduating with a bachelor of music from Queen's University, she has been honing her craft for a number of years. 'Broken to be Rebuilt' is not only a culmination of years of education in her art, but a deeply personal exploration of life, love and pain.

Those who are lucky enough to discover her music are engulfed in a listening experience like no other. The title track opens the EP in spectacular fashion; a fragile, piano-led song which focuses on themes of despair, destruction, and subsequent healing and rejuvenation. This sentiment, 'Broken to be Rebuilt', epitomizes the entire EP. The tracks are sorrowful, however Philippa is not admitting defeat. This is not a mournful, self-pitying record - an underlying motif of optimism lies throughout.

The sprawling 'Hosanna' is a raw, emotive number. The acapella opening showcases Philippa's spellbinding vocal, with the lines 'God, if you are here, come and lend your ears / The world has become dulled, and I can't feel anything' reflecting Philippa's inner struggles with her faith. In Hebrew, hosanna means “please save”, and this sense of desperation permeates the track, driven by thunderous timpani, howling vocals, and rapturous organ.

The melancholic 'Nightingale' is further evidence of Philippa's flair for conveying raw emotion. The repeated lyric 'you hit this heart like a drum beat' drives the song forward towards a climax of Kate Bush proportions. In contrast, 'Pawns' is a minimalistic, electronically driven track, which is not far from the experimental trip-hop soundscapes of FKA Twigs. In 'Home', Philippa makes use of layered, harmonised vocals, building an eerie, cavernous atmosphere. Within the nostalgic track, she draws influence from her natural surroundings - you can hear recordings of the waves lapping over the shore recorded on a beach near Portballintrae, a personal imprint of childhood memories which adds great character to the track.

The EP draws to a close with a reprisal of the title track, 'Broken to Be Rebuilt' being played by an orchestral quartet. This haunting addition gives a sense of finality and closure to what is a deeply personal and emotive record. Having supported the likes of Daughter and Tom Odell over the past year, and recently being lauded on Twitter by folk chart-topper Hozier, I suspect that Katharine Philippa will not remain Northern Ireland's little secret for much longer.

Lauren Johnson


For fans of: Daughter, FKA Twigs, Fiona Apple, Joanna Newsom

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