Hazel Mills – The Embrace EP Review

9 05 2023

Following an ongoing long-term tenure as keyboardist/backing vocalist for Goldfrapp and Florence + The Machine, Hazel is releasing a new collection of songs, an EP titled The Embrace, in collaboration with producer / engineer TJ Allen (Portishead, Bat For Lashes).

Hazel Mills - Embrace EP artwork

This is the first new music released under Hazel’s name for a long while. Earlier releases such as 2007’s Butterfly EP, with the haunting Freestanders, 2010’s psychedelic White Rabbit and the short-lived post-punk Adding Machine (with shades of the John McGeoch era Siouxsie and The Banshees seeping through) are sadly no longer available on streaming services, so this feels like a palate cleansing and a new beginning.

Embrace opens with the first track released to digital services, Enclosure. Gone are the heavily processed vocals of some earlier material, with Mill’s powerful, warm vocals front and centre. The synth lines recall the later period Japan and I hear touches of Kate Bush at times in Hazel’s delivery and vocal arrangements, with engaging harmonies and distorted lines built low in the mix.

Enclosure is a powerful opener and like all quality electronic music, it reveals new aspects on repeated listens. So play it often!

Track two is The Embrace, a mixture of acoustic piano and electronica. The production from Hazel and long-time collaborator TJ Allen is remarkable. The drum processing and use of reverb at key points adds a powerful dynamic during this song. I love the mix of 80s electronics coupled with a real pop sensibility on this addictive piece.

I am a recent convert to lossless / hi-resolution streaming via Qobuz, and was pleased to see the songs released to date from Hazel’s EP are available in hi-resolution on Qobuz.

Hold The Water has traces of the DNA of some earlier Hazel Mill’s material, with glitchy and modern urban beats and deep synth lines underpinning an emotional vocal, with eerily processed deep backing vocals.

Hold The Water highlights some of the major changes in this new music, an increased confidence in Hazel’s vocals and a heightened use of moving and sophisticated vocal arrangements, that cut through the at times icy electronics, with human warmth.

Hazel Mills - photo by Roberto Vivancos.

The final track is the stripped down, gentle beauty of Fragile Creature, my favourite song on the EP, and to me the best song Hazel has released to date. The first half of the song feels like a long lost Hounds Of Love / The Ninth Wave suite track.

Sparse piano and multiple, ethereal vocal lines weave their way across the ice as the deep synths eventually kick in. Hazel’s vocal is simply magical. I hear hints of traditional Irish folk in the rich vocal stylings, whilst the music feels very modern and glacial.

“But even my breath would blow you down”

Fragile Creature feels unlike anything I have heard before from Hazel. It’s a marked departure from the past and bodes so well for a potential full album, with such a variety of styles and moods that hit you hard.

The Embrace EP is released on 19th May 2023 via Hazel’s Bandcamp and streaming services.

The Embrace
Hold The Water
Fragile Creature

Written & co-produced by Hazel Mills
Mixed & co-produced by TJ Allen
Mastered by Guy Davie @ Electric Mastering Ltd
Hazel Mills: Vocals, piano, synths, programming
TJ Allen: Guitars, bass, additional synths & programming
Alex Thomas: Live drums (Enclosure & The Embrace)
Tim Bran: Additional synths (Enclosure)
Will Gregory: Additional synths (Fragile Creature)

Hazel Mills website
Follow Hazel on Twitter and Instagram.

Recommended listen
Hazel added vocals and piano, along with other guests including Chris Spedding, Paul Thompson, and Guy Pratt on Andy Mackay’s band The Metaphors album London! Paris! New York! Rome!

Hazel Mills & Harriet Riley cover Japan’s Ghosts



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: