Review: Dean McPhee – Fatima’s Hand

Dean McPhee - Fatima's Hand coverThe transition from McPhee’s 2011 Son Of The Black Peace album to Fatima’s Hand is almost seamless. He could even be sat on the same small chair, in the same delicately reverberant room, electric guitar cradled gently on his knee, solemnly silent and unmoved since the end of the last record up until now. In which case, what would he have been doing in the interim? Quietly crafting Fatima’s Hand in his head, waiting for its conceptual realisation before allowing it to spill out of his hands and into the realm of sound? There is a peaceful solitude to McPhee’s work; as always, these pieces are not the voice of someone that yearns to be listened to by another, but an acoustically-aided act of self-reflection, rebounding sound upon the walls in order to bear witness to every intricacy of his own mirror image. To believe that McPhee may have sat silently amidst his own company for four years does not feel far-fetched.

The term “solo guitarist” is often misleading, suggesting an unequivocal voice channelling one idea at a time. Fatima’s Hand is a cloud of combatant emotional voices. His fingerpicking is serene and kinetically elegant, cyclic like ticking clock hands. There are tiny falters in the form of expressive hesitations and velocity dips, creating ripples of unease and resurgent sadness – like a frown that flickers over the socially protective sheath of a smile. On the title track, Mcphee’s handling of melody carries an uncanny resemblance to the human voice, swooping and quivering over the chords like the singing of Nick Drake, private and dangerously sincere. All the while, chords tick-tock beneath the main line with a virtuosity that extends, ever so gently, beyond perceived human capability. Hands with six fingers instead of five, curling with a mild liquidity that bones shouldn’t allow.