Apr 21 2013
The Something Different review series highlights albums that are unlike anything else, and which embrace the best qualities of creative vision.
Former Rasputina and Antony & the Johnsons cellist Julia Kent has been recording some of the most sublime music all by her lonesome over the last handful of years. Kent has displayed a knack at enhancing her solo cello recordings with modern technology, like the use of loops and layering one cello part atop the other, and the use of found sounds as an ingredient of the finished product. Recordings like the 2007 release Delay, in which sounds of the airport were added to the music, and 2010 release Last Day in July and 2011’s Green and Grey, in which sounds recorded in nature were added to the wondrous mix of cello sections.
Following the highly acclaimed multi-media project “Parallel 41,” Kent is back with another solo cello release. But whereas her earlier recordings delivered music in slow languorous waves of serenity, Character delivers up a sound with an expansive presence and a sonic palette that trades finesse for something with a more assertive demeanor.
Your album personnel: Julia Kent (cello, found sounds, electronics & effects).
The album opens with “Ebb,” which reflects the music of past recordings, and gives only hints of the changes to come. Still peaceful, but now the music’s serenity is that of approaching storm clouds… coal black and grey, the flash of lightning emanating from within, a sense of foreboding, a beauty that inspires awe. This leads into “Transportation,” which builds on that foundation, maintaining the existing sound, but upping the power with which it’s delivered.
“Flicker” is the first pronounced sign of the changes to come. In a way that eschews her previous tendency to linear waves of sound, Kent loops strings by way of creating swirling eddies of motion within a longer, lusher foundation. And to this, she adds the accompaniment of an auto-harp, giving an icy ambiance to the cello’s innate warmth. And subsequent track “Tourbillon” adds a rhythmic element that had been absent heretofore… an element that serves a complementary role when paired with frenetic cello sections. This, with layers of cello laid over the top, adds to the growing intensity of the album.
“Fall” and “Kingdom” bring a darker tone to the affair. Slowing the pace down to an ebb, strings drift slowly and heavily across the length of the songs. “Kingdom” is especially pronounced in the way it delivers darker colors to a darker album. The sound of a match being struck is washed over by processed sounds that mimic the howl of winter winds and the countdown chimes of a grandfather clock.
“Only Child” is a return to form. A soft fireplace warmth… a heat that never threatens to burn out of control. This serves as another launching point, as “Intent” blooms into a larger sound. A rhythmic element via strings and effects, a sound not unlike the tinkling of chimes, and Kent’s cello lofting up into warped curvatures, taking unexpected angles and sudden increases and decreases in elevation. And “Salute” adds the sound of glasses clinking and a match struck alive to the soulful cry of cello.
The album ends with “Nina and Oscar,” a crosshatch of somber harmonies and bright notes. By itself, it might be considered understated, but in the way it brings this new album to a close, it makes for a satisfying fade off into the distance… a conclusion that wraps things up into a nice bow with a simple statement that does nothing to undercut the teeth of the album’s large center, nor diverge away from its heart or soul. Just plain beautiful.
Released in 2013 on The Leaf Label.
Available on Kent’s Bandcamp page, in CD, MP3, and Vinyl formats.
Also, Kent and The Leaf Label are offering a remixed version of an album track at Name Your Own Price (which includes ‘free’) at her Bandcamp page. It is the song “Transportation,” remade and remixed by some of her fellow artists on the Leaf Label.