Informed by personal and wider histories, Kate Stapley‘s debut solo EP Centella is a poignant blend of music and relatable metaphors. The Bristol-based songwriter explores mental health and forces beyond her control through gentle percussion, soft guitars and poetic lyricism, allowing her grief to blossom in to a positive force for change.
Released in January via Breakfast Records, listening to Centella is an aural breath of fresh air. ‘Iceland’ opens the EP, a gentle ode to snowy peaks and a comforting reminder that there’s new life on the horizon, even if you can’t crawl out of “creased bed sheets” whilst listening to it. Kate’s feelings of “numb translucency” are laid bare and resolved with the aid of a friend here – “Oh there’s more for me, takes a friend like you to remind me” – as tender percussion and soft guitar sounds score her moments of reflection.
‘Potted History Of Mum’ laments the fragmented memories of a loved one who’s life is slowly being lost to the cruelty of dementia. “It’s all so cyclical” sings Kate, in a soothing, accepting tone, before revealing a tender truth: “It only means a thing to me, ‘cos it means the world to you”. ‘Irises’ flows in a similar vein, with strings underscoring more of Kate’s beautifully honest lyrics: “it destroys me, the truth, that’s why I distance myself from you”. Despite the melancholy nature, this tune (and the whole record) brims with hope.
On ‘Interlude’, Kate studies a precious family photograph in a musical monologue – “It’s funny how it runs through the family, there’s so much of you that I see in me” – before striking penultimate track ‘These Planets’ explores the “darkness” in her bones. “I learned from the witches who began this” she sings, before profound and personal statements like “gender is not genital, that’s a fact we can’t escape” and “I may have inherited your pain, but it’s what drives me” flood her consciousness alongside more subtle percussion and soothing guitar sounds.
‘Stabilisers’ closes the EP with a sense of perseverance. The poignant line “Now we ride side by side, I even overtake you sometimes” resonates long after the track stops spinning. Kate Stapley’s blend of nostalgia and new hope on Centella is admirable and emotional, which makes listening to her debut a real gem of an experience.
Photo Credit: Simon Holliday