Lara Solnicki is a Canadian poet, composer and singer who combines all her talents strikingly on this album, marrying her words to a dense fabric of free-flowing jazz and improvisation.
Solnicki bends her voice well to the requirements of each composition. On the singsong rhythm of "The Embrace," she sounds sensitive but slightly detached against falling piano and electronic whispers, while, on the cinematic construction of "Bit Her Sweet Christopher Street," her voice climbs through a busy tangle of piano, saxophone, drums and ghostly processed moans. Peter Lutek's alto sax sweeps and shrieks through this piece as the other instruments disintegrate into free playing. Meanwhile Solnicki's voice holds firm, a steady presence amidst the alternating roars and quiet around her. "Idée Fixe" has Solnicki's wordless voice prettily trailing a Bach-like pattern against delicate sax and piano. On "Furling Leaf" she recites her lyrics quietly and deliberately against a distorted mesh of electronic noise that brings in bits of piano rhythm and squealing electric guitar along its path.
The major work on the album is "The One and the Other," an allegorical three-part composition about tragic and obsessive love. It begins in "Pass a Glass" with Solnicki alternately speaking and singing her words over a shifting landscape of echoing sound and glowing electric keyboards. This starts slowly but the tempo soon quickens. Then Hugh Marsh swoops in with screaming electric violin, as Solnicki does wordless vocal gymnastics and Davide Di Renzo bashes out a choppy, bruising drum attack. On "Awe of the Sea" Jonathan Goldsmith's piano and ghostly electronic sounds back Solnicki's recitation before a thick wall of pizzicato violin comes in to complement her soaring voice. This turns in a vortex of sound that offsets the singer's high- pitched murmurs with drums, violin and guitar. Her subsequent return to full singing is then overwhelmed by violent drumming and sweeping piano runs. "Hollow the Need" comes off as a hybrid of New Age music and jazz fusion. Solnicki sings gently above layers of electric keyboards, with Lutek trickling in on electric bassoon. For a while, this sounds like early Weather Report with its plush keyboards, gentle funk rhythm and spacious drum sound. Then Lutek's bassoon starts to lean into a heavy fuzz sound which dominates all, eventually melding with the other instruments in a tumbling kaleidoscope of sound. Throughout all this, Solnicki's voice is an entrancing human presence which brings a soothing calm to the jagged, buzzing musical landscape.
This is a very impressive fusion of words and music, a strong sonic brew which is delicate and clear in some places and dense and tangled in others. The power and clarity of Lara Solnicki's voice and lyrics are well matched by the experimental swagger and force of the music behind her. This is one of the year's early standout albums.
Bit Her Sweet Christopher Street; Idée Fixe; The Embrace; Furling Leaf, Retrocede; The One and the Other: I Pass a lass; II Awe of the Sea; III Hollow the Need.