Across three albums, Glasgow-based musician Kathryn Joseph has gradually extended a loving hand outward. His first, The bones you threw at me and the blood I shed, which won Scottish Album of the Year 2015, was an intensely personal and interior record about loss, made in response to the death of her son Joseph (whose name she later adopted as her stage nickname ). In 2018, From when I wake up the need is featured the stories of some of Joseph’s loved ones: a young niece who suffered from a serious illness, friends who temporarily lost their strength and self-esteem due to abusive relationships. Joseph’s music is urgent, sparse and largely unadorned, its intimate, slow intensity delivered without distraction or added drama. Often, his songs sound like unmediated transpositions of feelings.
Like his previous records, for you who are wronged takes desecration and pain as its subject matter, although it presents a more abstract and generalized view, addressing abuse and trauma as general topics, rather than individual stories. Now, reaching out to anyone who might take it, Joseph uses pain as an entry point for human connection. From her place of abjection, she offers peace and benevolence, encouraging anyone who hears her music to find themselves there and seek power. To do this, she transforms a brutal subject – the violence of those who abuse their love – into a soft and soporific register, a bit like a kind of true ASMR crime.
His bright brand of minimalism uses a very limited and quaint palette of sounds. She plays each of these songs on a keyboard with the subdued shimmer of a music box, almost entirely in a choppy 3/4 time signature, drumless rhythms spinning in an unceasing waltz. Her quavering voice, with its tiny tails of reverberation, establishes simultaneous closeness and distance. By his cursive expression and his low intensity, he recalls the Swedish singer Stina Nordenstam. Paradoxically, Joseph carries the majority of his vocal intensity in the decrease of each note. On “Until the Truth About You,” her vibrato sounds like the restless flapping of a bird’s wings, and in her demanding chorus, she whistles to be heard.
Every element of the album – the sounds of Joseph’s vocals and keys, plus the slight embellishment of collaborator Lomond Campbell’s modular synths – resonates for as long as his breath can carry. Joseph fights against the negative space, translating his essential need to communicate and the insufficiency of his keys to transpose his emotional fury. The contrast is immaculate and at times excruciating, giving even the tiniest sounds monumental impact. On the title track, Joseph is both the craziest and the most restrained; her whisper turns to a moan, though she reverts to a chirp at the slightest hint of catharsis. It feels like the unbearable tension of wanting to scream yourself out of your own body but only being able to handle a screaming silence.