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  • David Bentley

Non-Nordic Sunday: Gordi – artist feature

Normally when we do these features it is to showcase a new single or an album track but this one more in the way of a featured artist.

Australia’s Gordi (Sophie Payten - it is a nickname her brother gave her as a child) first caught my attention when she opened for Highasakite in 2016. Then she returned to the UK in November 2017 when I saw her at Night & Day in Manchester in front of a pathetically meagre crowd of mainly Australians living or holidaying here. She hasn’t been back since but there are reasons for that.

Sophie was brought up on a bush sheep farm a couple of hundred miles from Canberra but then relocated to Sydney. Billed as a ‘folktronica’ artist, she has a diverse range of influences, embracing veterans like Carole King and Joni Mitchell, along with more contemporary ones such as Sweden’s The Tallest Man on Earth, Iceland’s Asgeir Trausti and Laura Marling.

She’s released two EPs: ‘Clever Disguise’, in 2016, and ‘Beneath the Reservoir’ (2017), the album ‘Reservoir’ in 2017, which was recorded in Iceland, and latterly ‘My Two Skins’ in June of this year, which was recorded on the family farm in Canowindra.

As for why she hasn’t been back here in three years, she was studying to be a doctor while holding down a musical career. She completed her studies in 2018 and worked in a Sydney hospital throughout 2019. More recently she has been on the Covid ‘front line’ there.

Moreover, her studies and musical life running concurrently took it out of her. In the notes to the video below you can read how she had a nervous breakdown on a flight from Australia to the UK in late 2017. I suspect the first song on the video below, ‘Aeroplane bathrooms’ refers obliquely to that episode. It must have been not long afterwards that I met her, not that I noticed anything untoward. She came across as a calm, serene and very ‘together’ young woman. (Incidentally she turns 28 on Monday December 28th).

She has managed to get the musical side of things going again with the album this year and hopefully we’ll see her again in the UK before too long. She has become a big name in Australia, make no mistake about it.

When I saw her at Night & Day it was quite possibly the most sincerely dynamic performance I’ve experienced, from someone who puts heart and soul into it, and lives and breathes her songs. And she does it in a contralto voice, which is unusual in the era of the soprano. So I was very happy to come across this live performance at the famous Sydney Opera House, from June, one in which she and her band played to no-one, just thousands of empty seats. And even then she wrung an astonishingly heartfelt performance out of it. And the thing is that whatever size of venue she’s playing, it sounds just like this.

If you haven’t got the time to watch all of the video I would recommend ‘Volcanic’ (07:25 with introduction); ‘Can we work it out’ (16:15), an early one with an unusual beat, a lesson in how to combine folk and electronic, and still her best in my view); and ‘Heaven I Know’ (26:15) with its clever vocal loops which don’t work so well on the album (Reservoir’) but do in a live setting

Her website is here.


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