Emily Bezar is an alchemist, a truly unique singer and composer who draws freely from classical, jazz, rock, pop and electronic music to create a sound world all her own. Her soaring voice and keyboard- centric arrangements have earned her comparisons to Kate Bush and Tori Amos as well as to jazz icon Keith Jarrett and prog legends King Crimson. Her songs are kinetic and never predictable, surging from delicate to intense, from open simplicity to opaque density, but always ravishingly melodic. Most of all, they are honest and true, full of passion, elegance, conflict and order.
"Exchange" is her 5th self-produced album of uncategorizable, emotionally compelling music. If this is a jazz vocal album, then her musical references are an elusive, moving target, suggesting as much early 70’s electric fusion as tin-pan alley. If this is a classical vocal album, analyzing whether it is post-post- minimalism or pre-pre-Schoenberg is a hard study. And if it is Art-Rock, well then you’ll have to find some room on the shelf between Hatfield and the North and Kate Bush’s early albums, but that won’t quite be the right spot either.
It’s easy to hear the progression from her previous albums all through this massive 72 minute, 10-song collection. Bezar’s sparkling horn charts for “Heavy Air” and “Climb” recall the perky jazziness of 1996’s "Moon in Grenadine", now expanded to sophisticated arrangements of more depth and color. The nocturnal monodrama “Winter Moon” might be her most confident foray into classical song-form since her solo debut, 1993’s "Grandmother’s Tea Leaves". “Saturn’s Return” and “That Dynamite” are intense and dynamic prog-fusion arias, with all the weight and drama of 1999’s critically acclaimed "Four Walls Bending", an album that established her as an unlikely but undeniable presence on the modern progressive rock stage. And “Strange Man”, the liquid, psychedelic centerpiece of "Exchange", may be the most obvious link back to the ambient electronics of 2004’s "Angels’ Abacus". But as it grooves and morphs into a bubbling, alien-landscape outro, it’s clear this is like nothing Emily has done before and the door opens into a new dimension that she sounds eager to explore.
The band she assembled to create Exchange features a roster of some of the San Francisco Bay Area’s most creative jazz and rock players. Though rich with complex textures, this sounds like a “performed” album and may be Bezar’s most live-sounding recording yet. Bezar produced and arranged the album herself and it was recorded and mixed by rising-star engineer Justin Phelps, who also recorded Bezar’s "Four Walls Bending" and who has recently worked with the Mars Volta, Amanda Palmer of the Dresden Dolls and Trey Spruance of Mr. Bungle fame.