Elaine Howley - The Distance Between Heart and Mouth (Touch Sensitive) 1

Elaine Howley – The Distance Between Heart and Mouth (Touch Sensitive)

Cork-based musician Elaine Howley‘s debut solo work is an exquisite account of everyday dreaming and of sense-making in a senseless world. Evoking a myriad of influences, The Distance Between Heart and Mouth features nine lo-fi pop-leaning experimental songs.

Perhaps best known fronting psych rock group The Altered Hours, Howley’s projects (including Morning Veils, Crevice) established her voice in the Irish underground. Now stepping out into the open, The Distance Between Heart and Mouth digs deep into her own experiences and desires, to create a more personal and relatable clutch of tracks. Emerging rather than being consciously written, the album was pieced together from the 4-track cassette audio diary which Howley kept throughout 2019 and 2020. The daily ritual of sitting at the tape recorder experimenting with sounds and thoughts lifted her from the usual urgency and pressure of songwriting. The resulting feeling of freedom and lightness permeates this album, instilling it with depth and atmosphere almost instantly from lead single and opener ‘Silent Talk’. The lo-fi production style adds a grainy nostalgia (for the warped spool cassette tape generation, at least) along with warming memories of simpler, care-free times.

Comparisons to Trish Keenan in the press release are a fair reference point, particularly on the crepuscular decay of ‘Autumn Speak’ . Elsewhere, Howley blends surreal sprechstimme and softly gliding vocals over crunchy, angular beats and samples, as on ‘Architectural Longing’ and ‘Buried Way Out’, which will appeal to followers of Jenny Hval. ‘To the Test’ is different again, (in her words) a “love song rooted in loops and longing”. A hypnotic, raw trip-hop loop echoes out, creating a sodium-lit after-hours vibe, full of wee hours encounters and broken promises. Later on, with its synth-driven bubbly bass groove and swirling brass pads ‘Person Count’ could sit comfortably on a Lonelady EP. Closing track ‘Soso’ also has shades of Julie Campbell’s dub minimalism, while also recalling the creeping seduction of Shimmy Disc era Lida Husik.

Comparisons aside, sitting with this album a while also gradually reveals something beyond its initial appeal. Wrapping yourself up in Howley’s sonic world, you imagine her process of adding layers upon layers of ideas each day until something crystallised. Something that represented that uncanny felt sense of something you can’t quite grasp. There is a hint of mystery reflected in the album title, but with deep listening the enigma really gets under your skin. That requires a particular vulnerability in both the listener and the artist, as Howley acknowledges: “That is the intention of this album – trying to be brave enough to share and to open up; along with the internal and external barriers that exist when it comes to doing that.”

A beautifully crafted collection of dreamy keepsakes, The Distance Between Heart and Mouth is a transitory delight. It occupies its own fragile, temporary space that Howley lets us dip into for a moment, reliving hers and others’ memories through treasured sounds and textures.

‘The Distance Between Heart and Mouth’ is released on 12th August, via Touch Sensitive Records.


God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.