Hannah in the Wars is the vehicle for the dark folk musings of Hannah Curwood. Hailing from central Otago, the stark countryside informs her music, imbuing it with a mystic quality. Now residing in London, Curwood has married both craft and art on this latest release – an ambitious and very complete 10-song album. Delicate fingers of melody are supported by a super sympathetic rhythm section and a masterfully restrained keyboard and guitar ensemble, giving the space to fully explore her vocal spectrum on songs that slowly reveal their true bite over several listens. That is not to say that the songs are difficult or unappealing on first listen, more that their depth takes some time to fully appreciate. The album was produced by Roger O’Donnell, sometime keyboardist for The Cure, in his own studio. His guidance has produced a very intimate collection of songs, the gentle musical scene-setting allowing each to inhabit a melodic space all its own. There are moments where you are transported back to the moods of the Cocteau Twins, then gently pushed to recall Norah Jones, followed by PJ Harvey – whilst the music and melody has a strong identity of its own. Above all, the songs are complete and fully realised. O’Donnell’s production and the selection of the accompanying musicians have added tasteful layers of subtle sonic colour to the songs. At their core the tunes are elegant and beautifully constructed, and would stand on their own with just guitar or piano, which is the test of a great song. Curwood’s voice is beguiling, at turns swirling otherworldly and then pulling you close for a confession. The quality here is undeniable from every angle, songs that have something to say and an emotional arc which is simpatico with the music.