Over the better half of a decade, Time is Away, the London-based duo of Jack Rollo and Elaine Tierney, have made tender and heartfelt transmissions through countless mixes, sound works, live appearances and radio. Exploring deeply human themes of memory, persistence and resistance using an assemblage of source material, the duo’s unique mode of storytelling culminates in Ballads, a new suite of songs and, significantly, their first officially licensed compilation.
From the opening notes of Horvitz Morris Previte Trio’s jazz romanticism to Gilles Chabenat and Frédéric Paris’s lively reimagined standard, the haunting vocal seance of Tanto Pressanto and the mesmerising swirls of The Unthanks, Yuko Kono and Rachel Bonch-Bruevich, the spirit of Ballads roams through generations of affectionate songwriting and conjures images both candid and surreal. The voice of poet and longtime collaborator Christina Petrie appears briefly and contemplates the “sighs and replies… the space between verses” of the Ballad, its beauty, its place in our lives. What is the Ballad but a reflection of our soul? “Perhaps I’ll wander in search of it”, she bittersweetly concedes.
At the suite’s cusp is an alternate version of David Lang’s 'just (after song of songs)’, a thirteen-minute meditation on devotion that originally featured in Paolo Sorrentino’s Youth (2015). The track’s universal themes of faith and desire radiate throughout and elucidate Time is Away’s peerlessly precise yet gossamer touch.
Four dancing steps, one after the other, leading to a turn.
Four biting lines, one after the other, leading to a twist.
Through the sighs and replies of the ballad form, a shape persists – four and then four and then four and then four, on into the distance.
Between one thorn tree and the next, in the space between verses, perhaps I’ll find the ballad of my life, and live to hear it.
Or perhaps I’ll wander in search of it, drifting through the unfurling lines, and defer my poignant fate.
Time is Away is Jack Rollo and Elaine Tierney, two visionary storytellers who map personal, poetic and sometimes playful dérives through the histories of their imagination. The voice is an instrument, a letter from home, the colour of pomegranates... pastoral mysteries and idyllic myths weaved from an inventory of dreams.