Phildel’s story is poignant and it is one to which she subtly but frankly alludes with explanations as to how each song came to be written. Whilst she sings with closed eyes, the audience are permitted entry into her traumatic past – into the nervous breakdown she suffered; into the betrayals that have been inflicted upon her; into her subdual in the years of her youth. Before such revelations come to light, her music has a haunting quality. Afterwards, one can clearly see in her spectral songs the ghosts that reside within them.
Her voice cannot help but conjure images of the ocean. A chilling whisper of a serenade, at her most peaceful, mimics the shuffling wash of the tide and then swells like the surge of a wave to douse the audience. This surge, most prevalent in the refined invective that is Afraid of the Dark, builds, and as one looks around the room one sees only an audience submerged.
Mercifully, she lets us come up for air to reflect upon each song that has passed. There is a quiet anger at work in some, a painful lament in others, and an intricate craftsmanship in all. On one side of Phildel, Chris Young uses synths to create soundscapes, conjuring for the audience an imaginary landscape which is as authentic as his is synthetic. On the other, the spare percussive accompaniment of Chris Brice – who moves with adroit and perceptive touch between cajón, cymbal and djembe – renders all the more emphatic the crash of every lyrical wave.
We were treated to the entirety of Phildel’s most recent fourteen-track album, The Disappearance of the Girl, though the gig nonetheless felt short in length. Each song proved the truth of her record, in which her voice remains untouched by post-production. From the eponymous track, which she sings peering coyly from under the veil of her long hair, to Holes in Your Coffin, in which she quietly expresses a deep-set hurt and fury; from Union Stone, a song about the beautiful and pure aspects of love, to Funeral Bell, a hymnal born in the midst of her breakdown. One gets the sense that this is more than just music for Phildel: it articulates emotions in a way that the spoken word cannot.
Phildel promised to come back to Edinburgh, and when she does, I wouldn’t recommend you miss it.