The Astronomer's Guest
, the debut from Sarah Bennett's intriguing quintet, is a magical mix of ethereal beauty and kooky eccentricity. Transporting the listener on an enchanting journey, each track is both original and thematically linked. The mysticism of outer space acts as a perfect canvas to paint romantic, haunting soundscapes, and the album is a joyful maze of intricate vocals and conceptual depth.
Sarah Bennett's voice is elegant, evocative and above all unique. A breathy sensuous soprano with impeccable intonation, she glides effortlessly across difficult intervals, giving shape and colour to the musical landscape. The title track, "Astronomer's Guest," for example, is rich in vocal character, and Bennett communicates a powerful sense of theatre. The strength of the album lies in the symbiotic partnership between Chris and Sarah Bennett, and it comes as no surprise to discover that they are husband and wife. This relationship is pivotal to the success of the quintet: songwriter Chris has produced an exquisite showcase for Sarah's voice.
The "Celestial Toymaker" uses the voice as an instrument, and it's almost baroque-like in quality. This understated sense of ensemble and the merging of classical and jazz influences are repeating motifs throughout the entire album. Listeners who seek imaginative, sensual beauty should immerse themselves in the textures and colours of this remarkable, resonant piece of work.
Personnel: Sarah Bennett: voice; Pat Sprakes: guitar; Chris Bennett: piano; Geoff Pearson: bass; Tim
Brown and Mitch Oldham: drums.