Album number 15 issued during Pefkin's 20th year of recording as a solo artist.
In 2018 Gayle was asked to play at the Øy Festival on Papa Westray with a brief linking islanders to space exploration. These 5 tracks are the result.
The opener and title track describes a past method of navigation across the seas using a sextant to read the stars and plot a course. It features Gayle's fellow Celestial Navigator from Electroscope on VCS3 and Revox A77 tape recorder - John Cavanagh.
The other 4 songs are loosely focused on Arctic exploration, in particular the Orkney-born explorer John Rae who discovered the fate of Lord Franklin and inadvertently the North West Passage. Alan Davidson of the Kitchen Cynics plays some magnificent psych guitar on 'I Am John Rae'.
It wouldn't be a Pefkin album without birds, and 'Tulungusaq', a dreamy slice of psych pop, is based on an Inuit creation myth about the crow.
Finally, both sides close out located firmly in frozen far north. 'Numenius Borealis' is the scientific name for Eskimo Curlew which made the Arctic tundra its summer home and was hunted into (probable) extinction. The only photograph taken of this beautiful species of wader was in 1962 in Galveston.
Gayle met Stromness-based metalworker Fiona Sanderson on Papay, who lent her Aeolian Chimes, a sculpture created from a handthrown copper bowl and grandfather clock chimes. This beautiful creation features throughout the album, most prominently on 'Aurora Borealis'.
Review by Kim Harten of Bliss / Aquamarine
"Pefkin is the solo project of Gayle Brogan, also of Electroscope, Barrett's Dottled Beauty, Burd Ellen, and Meadowsilver. Her 15th album in 20 years as a solo artist, Celestial Navigations, has a loose theme of Arctic exploration, and is firmly rooted in nature, with vivid aural depictions of starlight, birds, and the Aurora Borealis. The themes explored in the music are beautifully portrayed in the astonishing cover art by Alan Davidson of Kitchen Cynics and Barrett's Dottled Beauty.
The title track is ambient space pop with glacial drones, whirring analogue synths, and the ethereal beauty of Gayle's voice. Tulungusaq is airy, dreamlike experimental pop with lyrics inspired by Inuit mythology, featuring an intermingling of thumb piano, sweeping Mellotron orchestration, atmospheric violin, and perfect vocal harmonies. Numenius Borealis is a stark, brooding experimental composition with celestial choral vocals.
I Am John Rae is a beautiful psych-folk song telling the story of the eponymous Orkney-born explorer, with a traditional folk-inspired melody set to a heady arrangement incorporating violin, synth, zither, and liquid psychedelic guitar courtesy of Alan Davidson who appears as a guest musician on this track. Aurora Borealis perfectly recreates the Northern lights in music with the eerie whoosh of the Aeolian Chimes, a musical sculpture made by Orkney artist Fiona Sanderson, alongside swirling, pulsing and humming violin and synth sounds and a traditional-inspired folk melody sung in clear, pure vocal tones.
A beautifully evocative, atmospheric album from a highly original artist who sounds like no-one else. "
From Vital Weekly
"The second time I wrote about Gayle Brogan's project Pefkin, in Vital Weekly 1077, I said
that was my introduction but I previously heard the 'Zugunruhe' release, as discussed in Vital
Weekly 684. 'Celestial Navigations' sound like a title by Brainticket and perhaps we should see
this a sort of follow-up to the psychedelic electronic music of the recently deceased Joel
Vandroogenbroek. The music of Pefkin is more folky and introspective. In 2018 she played at the
Øy festival on Papa Westray (the Orkney Islands) and she uses her voice (layered most of the
times), violin, analogue synthesizer, zither, psaltery, harp, guitar, found objects and field
recordings. She receives some help from John Cavanagh and Alan Davidson. She was asked
about a link between the islanders and space exploration and these five pieces are the result of
that. It is perhaps not music I hear a lot, but it is surely something I like very much. The whole
space connection, to be honest, eludes me, but I didn't mind. The spacious trip this music makes
is a heavenly ride anyway. Throughout the music is drone-based, with all of these instruments
strumming and striking and sustaining and in the middle, there are the vocals by Brogan, careful,
delicate, folky. I very much enjoy the way it all works together; the folky voice, the acoustic
instruments and the space suggested by the electronics, through loops, the reverb on the voice,
and the synthesizer such as the VCS3 creating this all-important atmosphere. This is the perfect
soundtrack for a grey, rainy day, not wanting to leave the house and dream of stars (not visible). "
released February 25, 2020
Written, recorded and produced by Gayle Brogan
Gayle plays violin, Celtic harp, various synths, harmonica, zither, psaltery, Vox Continental, thumb piano and glockenspiel chimes.
Field recording made in Braemar.
John Cavanagh plays clarinet, bass clarinet, VCS3 and Revox A77.
Alan Davidson plays multi-tracked guitar.
Mastered by John Cavanagh.
Illustration by Alan Davidson.
Review from Record Crates United
"Gayle Brogan, whom you may remember from her enchanting contributions to Meadowsilver, has returned to her equally stunning solo project, Pefkin.
Inspired by the astral-guided exploration methods of old, as well as tales of Victorian-era Arctic expeditions, Celestial Navigation is a dreamy, ethereal acid folk soundscape that completely envelops the listener into its icy world.
Songs like “Numenius Borealis” chill the listener with layers of droning synths, frigid, reverb-heavy violins and Brogan’s soft yet pure voice. Meanwhile, a strong hallucinogenic vibe keeps the entire record in a dreamlike netherworld. Take for instance, “I Am John Rae.” With its mesmerizingly-fried multi-track guitar loops (provided by fellow acid-folk legend, Alan Davidson of the Kitchen Cynics) and Brogan’s siren vocal harmonies, this song feels like a sonic equivalant to a hazy mirage forming just over the horizon of a vast and lonely sea.
Elsewhere on the record, shades of Linda Perhacs’ and Pantaleimon’s interstellar folk are conjured up alongside the minimalist neo-classical work of Gavin Bryars. Altogether, this is a frosty, comforting listen that would best be heard while walking through a forest during a gentle evening snow flurry. So be sure to preorder this album ahead of its February 25th release right here, and listen to it in such an environment before we reach the warmth of spring."
Review from Terrascope
"Composed in response to an invitation to a festival on the Orkney isles this album features five beautiful and drifting tracks that are like watching an ever-changing sky, each moment creating a different texture and emotion, the whole a kaleidoscope of image and holy mystery.
Opening track “Celestial Navigations” is a slow-moving drone with a three-note pulse at its centre, Gayle Brogan's delightful voice adding depth to the piece whilst swirling synths, courtesy of John Cavanagh, create even more layers to music that is timeless and enchanting. This loss of time is even more evident on “Tulungusaq” another slow ambient drone that is best heard lying down with a flickering candle and an open heart, the music beautiful and healing as it flows through you, an array of instruments adding texture to the music that is lead, once again, by the voice. To round off side one “Numenius Borealis” extends the vision, seemingly an extension of what has come before, drone and voice mixing with magical intent, this harmony of sound at the core of the album producing a perfectly structured collection that floats and shimmers across the room.
With the addition of Alan Davidson's distinctive guitar sound, “I Am John Rae” takes up where side one left off, drone, voice and repetition altering your state of mind delightfully, melody and texture perfectly balanced within the piece. To finish. “Aurora Borealis” takes us into another realm, ethereal drones, electronics and sounds creating the perfect backdrop for Gayle's voice, the track demanding that you listen intently, music that levitates and glitters, the drones slowly building as the piece evolves each sound chosen with care and with purpose.
An early contender for album of the year, this collection is a complete work that reveals new layers each time it is heard. Mention must also be made of the excellent artwork courtesy of Alan Davidson that adds another layer of beauty to the package."