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HONOR GAVIN

Berlin-based, Birmingham native Honor Gavin began making music at age seven, when her dad unexpectedly brought home a secondhand upright piano. While she would give up that first instrument in favor of the cello, and later guitars, her interest in ‘the mathiness of (piano) theory’ has stayed with her and is still reflected in the use of unusual time signatures in some of her work. In Oxford, where Honor spent a number of years, she found a like-minded community in the loose network that would become the arts cooperative and record label Blessing Force, coming under the influence of bands often associated with math rock and progressive rock, including Youthmovies and The Edmund Fitzgerald (the previous outfit of Foals members Yannis Philippakis and Jack Bevan). Honor cites Youthmovies’ critically acclaimed Hurrah! Another Year, Surely This One Will Be Better Than the Last; The Inexorable March of Progress Will Lead Us All to Happiness as one of the albums that had an especially strong effect on her. ‘I guess it was the combination of unrelenting intelligence and musicianship with sheer emotional force that got me’, she says, ‘not that what I do bears any resemblance sonically’.

Indeed, while Honor’s work is less invested in playing with forms of ‘rock’ than that of her peers and influences, its own, intelligent pop sensibility is also grounded in an appreciation for abstraction and experimentation. Asked about the relationship of her music to her literary writing, she confesses that in her head, “It’s all maths. Pure maths.” While such a (possibly half-meant) statement might suggest a kind of obsessively calculated take on pop, the actual result feels naturally gripping, whether it takes the form of an undeniably infectious track like ‘Yes Manzoni’ or of a more inward-looking, melancholic song like “Bobby We Died.” In part, the affective quality of Honor's writing is effected through her use of repetition and intricate vocal layers. Whereas the former possibly points to a part of her history (as someone who used to write songs inspired by Steve Reich, a master of repetition), the latter suggests self-erasure, paradoxically accomplished through the multiplication of her own voice. As Honor puts it, ‘The obsession with layering vocals is a way of getting rid of my voice, or at least getting some distance from it. As in: if you don't double and redouble your voice, your voice sounds quite like you, and is in that way very fragile’.