Feral by Ishmael Cormack

A captivatingly intimate and melodically warm third release on the mailbox label showcases Cormack’s talent for soundtracking the wonder of nature

Feral (mailbox, 2020)

Sit down, or perhaps even better go for a walk, and press play on ‘Feral’ by Ishmael Cormack. Close your eyes and listen:

Listen closely to a micro-world
overflowing with wild flowers
hidden hedgerows and desire paths.
As we explore the unknown, the previously invisible.
Off the well-travelled path, we rediscover nature.
We dance between dandelion seeds blowing.
We shrink down to molecules, tasting the air.
These melodies melt time.
Guitars drift through ages.
We are in the now, captivated by this feral bliss.

For 23 minutes we become engaged listeners. We are transported into the here and now. Moments stripped from distractions. Music which grants us an escape from ourselves and the crazy world around us – if only for a while.

‘Feral’ encapsulates and celebrates countryside and rural life. This intimate release brings us back down to earth and at one with soil. Closing our eyes, it’s easy to imagine we are witnessing the sounds of walking through dew-tinged blades of grass, the wind whistling through swaying branches, or our own boots taking us down lesser-know passageways across fallow fields. It reminds us how huge the universe is and how small we really are.

Ishmael Cormack is a British sound artist living in rural Somerset. He is a master of micro textures and ‘Feral’ is a high point demonstrating his skilful subtlety of tones and evocation of open spaces. All of Cormack’s previous releases captured a certain personal intimacy – from his recent album with Thom Quentin Leigh, ‘The Sunday’ Project’, all the way through his entire back catalogue which you can dive into on his Bandcamp. You feel better connected with nature because Cormack is such a nuanced and poetic practitioner and thinker. His use of delicate electro-acoustics creates an immersive listening experience that exquisitely takes us to places outside of our own window and beyond.

However, what makes this particular release by Cormack so timeless is the same essence which makes it also a wonderful paradox. Music like this has never been so vital to the times we are currently living through. ‘Feral’ is a beautiful abandonment of everything that makes up what is ‘now’. It is also an alternative and an antidote for everything that is happening right now around us. These four tracks are snapshots of a single moment of time and place, stripped of history, never to be the same again. Just pure, in the moment. Of now. Full of real innocence and warmth.

‘Feral’ is inspired by George Monbiot’s book with the same title. Monbiot, a British writer known for his environmental and political activism, states the importance of exploring rewilding and the importance of humanity in allowing nature to take the lead. Cormack’s music fits effortlessly with these ideologies. In fact, there has never been a better time to reengage with nature around us. While we scratch away at the walls during lockdowns, we have to remember there is still hope while there is an abundance of beauty outside our doorstep. Often we become blind to it. Other times, it’s just a little out of reach and requires a few steps of (re)discovery to find it. This release is a soundtrack to this search for a certain feral bliss; a celebration of all things wild.

This is music for and about landscapes. It takes us across, through, over and under fields and trees, hedgerows, streams and skies. These are well-travelled pages torn from a personal diary: short walks, out in nature, alone. Where flowers dance beneath dappled sunlight and droplets hang off heavy leaves. It is quiet music with a loud emotional intensity.

In Monbiot’s book he shows his attempt to re-engage with nature and discover a new way of living. By restoring and rewilding our damaged ecosystems, he says we can bring wonder back into our lives. Perhaps, many of our minds feel like a little damaged ecosystem right now, too? This release with its soft weaving of dream-like textures might contain some of the magic to help steer us back towards a brighter horizon. You can’t help but feel a swell of calm come over you after losing yourself within the swaying melodies and drifts of guitar and electronics.

One of the definitions of rewilding alludes to proving a connectivity and energy flow between natural processes and core wilderness areas. ‘Feral’ captures this growing zeitgeist in sound – it unravels with an unrushed beauty, guiding us through the wild.

‘Feral’ is a perfect accompaniment for moments of solitude. Particularly wonderful for walks – whether deep within woods or exploring the edges of town – it offers a small slice of mindfulness for this current climate. Invest in it a little bit of your own time and the rewards soon become evidently clear.

‘Feral’ by Ishmael Cormack is available to buy digitally on mailbox records. Purchase on Bandcamp.

If you were lucky enough to pre-order the small-run of physical copies on cassette (with design and packaging by Cormack himself) you’re in for an extra treat which combines beautifully with the themes of the music to create a very special, hand-crafted release.

Based in Bristol, UK, mailbox is a new label established this year and run by the talented James A. McDermid and Inês Ourives Delgado. Their debut release was McDermid’s split with Brad Deschamps aka anthéne, the highly recommended ‘Transit + Transition’. This was followed-up by the beautiful ‘A Lullaby for Elisa’ by El Conejo.