This is the album that turns a corner for cellist Julia Kent. This may be the last time we remind people she once played in Rasputina and Antony and the Johnsons. Those facts really doesn’t matter anymore. Following two previous albums and an EP, this sublime performer has found her true voice. The new album, in deference to its title, demonstrates not only the aforementioned character, but definition and verve. The water sounds are gone (a hindrance in Last Day in July), the flow is tempered and the confidence levels through the roof. Perhaps the shift to Leaf has had a part, as this album displays an unprecedented command of emotion and flow; it’s the album fans have been waiting to hear for years.
Kent has the power to sadden, soothe or motivate, all of which are apparent within the first few tracks. “Ebb” is the solemn acknowledgement of suffering, the friend at the bedside, the soldier come to break the bad news. Sullen and deep, the track mines the area of the heart often kept secret, the locked-in, lonely crevasse. “Transportation” is the pulse, the balm, the bandage. Here the cello is used not only as melody and harmony, but percussion: the tapping that intimates life. Bow strings are balanced by plucks; the spirit rebounds. In “Flicker”, a swift 32-note motif is augmented by light drums; spring arrives, the windows are thrown open.
These themes alternate throughout the album, often unfolding in the course of a single song. The strongest individual motif dominates the end of preview track “Tourbillon”, a fiery draw of bow across string that heats like a winter blaze. The only rough spot arrives in the album’s center, as “Kingdom” draws connection to Kent’s experimental past. The track is dark, dreary, and nearly discordant, sounding more Miasmah than Leaf. Thankfully, Character‘s second half makes a quick recovery, slower and more restrained, reflective by proximity. By the end, listeners have gained a sense of Kent’s character: ambitious, resolute, not content to rest on laurels. These traits serve her well, inspiring the possibility that every subsequent album will be her greatest. (Richard Allen)
Release date: 4 March
Pingback: ACL 2013: The Year’s Best Album Covers | a closer listen
Pingback: ACL 2013: Top Ten Modern Composition | a closer listen