Alessi's Ark - The Still Life
They say that happiness is a journey, and not a destination. It matters most what you do to get there, not what you do once you have it. Alessi Laurent-Marke has realised this. In fact, she's done more than that; she's written an album about it. A 'still life' is a form of art, but it's also the phrase Laurent-Marke has used to describe a content existence. She's still looking for hers; has she found it yet? Who's to say? It's the journey that matters most, and she's been on quite a journey since releasing her debut back in 2009. Notes From the Treehouse was a fine debut that left room for improvement; its follow-up, 2011's Time Travel was even better, but the confidence that oozes from every note of The Still Life makes it her best album to date almost by default. Aside from the voice and the intricate arrangements of the 13 tracks that make up the album - including a near-perfect cover of 'Afraid of Everyone' by The National - one wouldn't really know this was Alessi's Ark.
Its overall running time may seem slight - not far off a mere 32 minutes - but this is far from a throwaway folk-pop record. The melodies are expertly crafted, and the clear jump from Laurent-Marke's previous material is evident the moment the album opens with the brief but brilliant 'Tin Smithing', the singer employing excellent phrasing and breath control in a fast-moving song that doesn't hang around quite long enough to be appreciated on initial listens, but that's the thing about The Still Life: all of its material may be immediate, but it's nothing if not a grower, with its creator speaking with a new-found lyrical and emotional depth. That The National cover is no mere curio; it fits in alongside the mournful-sounding 'Big Dipper' and 'Those Waves's' confident swing, the occasional cello interjections and impressive harmonies buoying the song before it becomes much more powerful after its chorus, the cello and plucked guitar line combining to create a spine-tingling moment.
It soon becomes clear that Laurent-Marke's latest is a deeply personal and affecting record; 'Sans Balance' contains a single French verse surrounded by English, and the juxtaposition between the two is striking, the song's lyrics seeming even more poetic when expressed bilingually. Laurent-Marke has no trouble confronting personal conflict in her native tongue, and tackles songs like 'Hands in the Sink' and the gorgeous closer 'Pinewoods' with experience which belies the fact that she's still only 22. Her first two albums planted the seeds of talent, but The Still Life is the record on which she's finally starting to bloom. Better late than never.
Purchase and listen
Label: Communtion Release date: 01/03/10 Myspace Founded in 2006 and running quietly but highly esteemed club nights in Bristol, Brighton and London, it's about time Communion Records threw some tracks on to a cd. They've also sneakily only made it available to stream online thus far, ensuring you're hooked before the release date comes around. This is one of the folkiest things I have ever heard, and it's amazing. Choc-full of acoustic finesse, unexpected flirtations with violas, uke... [read more]
Laura Marling is history. It's a lazy, obvious comparison to Alessi Laurent-Marke, but it seems that Reading's favourite troubadour is the benchmark for any successful female folk artist, just as Joni Mitchell was before her. Well, it looks like it's finally going to be acceptable to consign her to Americana and the Brits, as Alessi's Ark is our new folk queen. Time Travel, her first release from independent label Bella Union, is a gorgeous journey of melancholy and resignation, taking the us... [read more]
The Union Chapel is my favourite venue. Firstly it's a bloody church, which is pretty cool, but it also has great acoustics, and a twee charm, uncomfortable pews aside. On top of this, Bella Union with their bright melodic folky bands, are one of my favourite labels, so I was especially happy to be going to their Christmas Party. What made me feel even better about this gig though, was being given a free ... [read more]
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