Although her album's title is a bit unwieldy, vocalist Kadi Vija's summer 2020 release does convey the artist's distinctive approach to living in challenging times. Rather than aiming for dramatic gestures or the boldest imaginable change, perhaps the more sensible strategy is simply to figure out how to keep goingnot resignation, exactly, but a willingness to yield, and to remain open to whatever new possibilities may appear. With a well-chosen quartet attuned to this vision, Vija's music has a lilting, ingratiating quality that doesn't try to do too much, but is all the more effective as a result of its delimited ambitions.
Vija's prior release, Ugly Beauty (Texicalli, 2017), was definitely an intrepid endeavor: an album's worth of Thelonious Monk tunes, sung wordlessly with the piano accompaniment of Lucas Dann. If at times the arduous demands of that material got the better of Vija, that isn't the case here. These are her own compositions, and they are ideal in showcasing her relaxed, languid style, more content to float untethered than to lock onto jagged angles. Her partners are well-suited for this project. Bass clarinetist Max Zenger, guitarist Tuomo Dahlblom and drummer Tuomas Timonen provide a rich, bottom-heavy tonal palette that is quite effective in providing resources for music that draws liberally from both jazz and pop idioms.
The opener, "Standing Still," creates a good deal of atmosphere, as Zenger's sinuous phrases, joined in unison by Vija, hover over a simple repeated guitar figure and understated electronics, with Timonen providing just enough ballast to sustain the piece's gentle momentum. One of the album's two tracks with lyrics, "Circles and Falls" generates a mood of expansive wonder, while "Blind" raises the energy level, with Dahlblom's guitar upfront and Vija's vocals taking on a more assertive role, and featuring a rock-inflected interlude. "Roaming in the Contemporary Society" takes a twangy Dahlblom riff and builds on its intensity, with Zenger sometimes merging with Vija and occasionally offering support, before he launches into an especially invigorating solo.
Other tracks skew closer to jazz. "Water Dripping Dance" is carried by a loping swing and Vija's most creative flourishes, bending the notes and expanding her phrases convincingly, while "Between the Lines" has a warm, dusky ballad feel. And "Chord Travel" finishes with a show of strength, especially from Timonen, whose bursting drum solo leads the band into an ardent climax, although unfortunately one with a fade-out rather than a proper finish.
With a well-defined concept and the right material to frame Vija's vocal talents, this release has a lot going for it.
Standing Still; Blind; Water Dripping Dance; Circles and Falls; Roaming in the Contemporary Society;
Between the Lines; Chord Travel.
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