Youn Sun Nah: Lento (2013)
Nah has crafted a style so purely her own and so compelling, the only valid point of comparison is her previous work. In that vein, Lento represents a less overtly surprising album than her previous endeavor, Same Girl, taking instead a more consistently somber tone. And while nothing quite reaches the attenuated seduction of Same Girl's "Favorite Things," which startled with its inventive distillation of this often visited classic, Lento once again displays Nah's hallmark emotive range and intellectual acuity, darting from languish, to allurement, to ferment with startling ease.
A few examples taken from the album's eleven pieces illustrates Nah's distinct artistry. The driving crescendo "Lament" creates an intense psychological atmosphere, building on the powerful lyrics and a well-designed arrangement. On "Momento Magico" Nah displays her rhythmically adept take on "scat" singing, and with "Arirang," returns to Korean folk music to craft a tune that seems to crystallize a sense of comfort and calm. Two additional stand-out tracks, Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt" and Stan Jones "Ghost Riders in the Sky" reveal Nah's affection for approaching unexpected material, and her capacity to do so in dazzling fashion. Paring down Trent Reznor's already minimalist tune even further, Nah carves an emotionally scarring journey expertly emphasizing the contradictions and tensions found in this meditation on personal pain.
In contrast, Nah delivers a highly stylized take on "Ghost Riders," twisting and bending her voice to accentuate every cinematic quality of the original lyric, all while navigating a cleverly off-kilter arrangement. "Ghost Riders" is also a good example of how well supported Nah is by her skilled bandmates who know precisely how to reinforce her many musical identities.
In short, another entry in Nah's growing catalog of compelling releases, Lento is full of gripping artistic moments that reveal with repeated exposure and are made all the more moving.
Track Listing: Lento; Lament; Hurt; Empty Dream; Momento Magico; Soundless Bye; Full Circle; Ghost Riders in the Sky; Waiting; Arirang; New Dawn
Personnel: Youn Sun Nah: vocals; Ulf Wakenius: guitars; Lars Danielsson: bass & cello; Vincent Peirani: accordion & accordina; Xavier Desandre-Navarre: percussion
Record Label: ACT Music