It’s been five years since Woman’s Hour released superb debut ‘Conversations’, a period during which relations in the band apparently deteriorated greatly. With the release of second record ‘Ephyra’, Woman’s Hour have announced that the band is no more - citing deteriorating mental health, fraught communication and emotions “too painful to talk about”. “‘Ephyra’ is our eulogy”, they say, “an opportunity to reflect on what happened and embrace what we achieved”. And while the album is thus a bittersweet landmark in the band’s career, it is undoubtedly a creative highpoint.
‘From Eden to Exile Then Into Dust’ is one of the most impressive songs the band has released. A six-and-a-half minute transformer, it opens with flashes of white noise and sampled speech - like a person flicking between television channels. The core of the song then mixes the trap-like dance of FKA twigs with the heavenly choral vocals of Björk, before eventually climaxing with an aggressive synth arpeggio that sounds like it’s been plucked straight out of a ‘90s rave.
Elsewhere, ‘I Can’t Take You Seriously’ is an atmospheric synthscape with a swinging groove and Mazzy Star-style guitars. Fiona Burgess’ vocals glisten here as the track swells and twinkles in the background. ‘Mirrorball’ is a gently rollicking duet that offers a playful foil to some of the album’s more restrained cuts. ‘It’s a Blast’ is another standout, a flurry of mandolin underpinning Fiona’s cooing.
‘Ephyra’ as a whole is an album that seems to express a wealth of complex emotions. Vocal harmonies are often isolated from the rest of the instrumentation, creating a confounding sadness. Nowhere else is this more obvious than on the closing track, ominously titled ‘Removal of Hope’. Ultimately, ‘Ephyra’ may have been the demise of this band, but Woman’s Hour have created something truly special in these final throes.