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Chantal Acda: Silently Held

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Chantal Acda: Silently Held
Somewhere near the point where jazz, Americana and alt-folk meet, Belgian singer-songwriter Chantal Acda can be found. She has carved out a distinctive sound using a restricted and intimate sonic landscape crafted to enhance her vocal delivery. Her voice is soft and breathy with a fragile edge, and she delivers her lyrics with an intense focus. She has recorded solo and with differing groups of musicians on her previous albums. For Silently Held, she is joined by some outstanding players who style themselves as The Atlantic Drifters.

The collaborators include American guitarist Bill Frisell; his distinctive sound and previous experience blending jazz, folk and country make him an ideal partner. Long-time collaborator Shahzad Ismaily (Tom Waits, Laurie Anderson) brings his skills on acoustic guitar, Moog and percussion. Drummer Eric Thielemans (Billy Hart, Trevor Dunn) is another long-time collaborator; he is joined by bassist Thomas Morgan (Steve Coleman, Gerald Cleaver) and leading Belgian pianist Jozef Dumoulin. Further texture is provided by saxophonists Colin Stetson and Kurt van Herck, clarinetist Joachim Badenhorst and Niels Van Heertum on euphonium. Also deserving of recognition, for managing the sound spectrum, are mixing engineer Phill Brown and producer Philip Weinrobe. Many of the songs were recorded in one take and the blend of rawness and lushness is notable.

The classy "One Day, One Life" opens the album and sets the tone for what is to follow. The sparse guitar is joined by bass, drums and piano. Acda uses the fragility of her voice to give an edge to her smart lyrics. The one cover version on the album, "I Can't Make You Love Me," provided Bonnie Raitt with her biggest hit. The song is taken slowly, with some phrasing changed. Frisell keeps the melody moving before beautifully shaped sax playing closes the track. The achingly beautiful "The Friends Parade" is the album's highlight. Frisell, Ismaily and Dumoulin provide absorbing backing to Acda's delicate vocals as Morgan and Thielemans subtly build up the subdued pace before Stetson and Van Heertum close.

The two central tracks of the album, both clocking in at around the eight-minute mark, are the title track and the moody "Seafoam." The latter gives the band space to expand, with Morgan's creative bass lines anchoring the contributions of the others. Acda's layered voice implores and quivers as the textures and atmosphere build and drift.

Acda and the Atlantic Drifters have crafted a wholly immersive world of sound which is ideal for her voice and lyrics. The musicians bring virtuosity and variation, and never deviate from the landscape they have created. They create a haze which can envelop the listener and bring them intimately close to the songs. Acda is captivating in her delivery and has produced an album that can hold listeners in an intense yet gentle embrace.

Track Listing

One Day, One Life; I Can’t Make You Love Me; Above; Hear It Out; The Friends Parade; Silently Held; Taking Part; Seafoam; The Barn.

Personnel

Colin Stetson
woodwinds
Kurt van Herck
saxophone, tenor
Jozef Dumoulin
keyboards
Bill Frisell
guitar, electric
Thomas Morgan
bass, acoustic
Shahzad Ismaily
bass, electric
Additional Instrumentation

Colin Stetson: saxophone (1-9); Shahzad Ismaily: acoustic guitar, moog, percussion, piano (1-9).

Album information

Title: Silently Held | Year Released: 2024 | Record Label: Challenge Records


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