A fountain, consisting of tranquil, fragile melodies, sprinkles a thousand plucked notes into the sky. In the unhurried air, they flirt beside tranquil, feather-light lyrics that speak poetically of romance and tragedy. The music of Chantal Acda is deep; deeply moving, sensitive to the slightest touch and brimming with emotion. Her music is a romantic promise; the notes cuddle up to a loved one after a long, disappointing day, barely letting out a breath as it snuggles up, close to you. Her passion for music expresses itself fully at the sound of every note. Note by note, she breaks the silence with her softly spoken song, lifting up the music on a vocal wing.
“Jason” is a smooth start, and the scented melodies become even more delectable with every passing second. Chantal Acda has been musically active for years under her Sleepingdog alias. Her last – 2011’s With Our Heads In The Clouds and Our Hearts In The Fields – saw her create another gorgeous album, collaborating with SoTL member Adam Wiltzie. Her solo album, Let Your Hands Be My Guide, loses a lot of the processed drones and instead chooses to sedate the listener with her gently daubed melodies and finger-led chordal patterns. Chantal Acda has perfected the art of the singer/songwriter. She must be the kind of songwriter who continuously re-arranges her lyrics and chords, because every syllable blazes her fiery passion for music.
“My Night” is Heaven on Earth. It is an intimate, moon-lit serenade, lovely in its nature. Every chord progression is a delicate movement in a beautiful dance. “Arms Up High”, with its alluring arpeggio, adds some intriguing notes and bright colours to ward off the nightly shade. Nils Frahm and Peter Broderick join in, but it is Acda’s guitar that romances the listener.
The additional musicians never dampen the intimacy, although some may view it as a lurking danger. In the context of the record, the instruments add a little extra depth and variation – not to mention some studio sheen – to what is already a polished album. Everything aligns to perfection, as if it were a stunning solar eclipse, brandishing beauty into the pupils of the eye. Acda’s light vocals and lambent strings shine through the darker, wan tones. In some ways, it would be nice to see a pure, live recording, just Chantal and her acoustic guitar for company, where notes ring true; a nude, vulnerable beauty, in the flesh as the instrument originally intended. Let Your Hands Be My Guide retains its purity and purpose and is an intimate performance.
The first real sighting of the deeper drone surfaces on “Lost”, and as Chantal sings, the evocation of deep anguish and separation increases, until the drone is left tugging at its nearest interval. It needs its closest love, reaching out desperate, open hands for its resolution, which it finds at the end of the chorus; the lost becomes found. On “Wintercoat”, the piano becomes the security when the safe comfort of reliability falls away. Loose leaves are broken and scattered from their parent tree. Similarly, Acda and her guitar find themselves divorced, a breakaway so rare that it hurts. The piano is lovely, tinted with a thoughtful melancholy that is ultimately appreciative. Ending on an uplifting note, “We Must Hold On” showers itself with major arpeggios that cry out the victory of love.
Chantal leads you by the hand, down her path of poetry, with stories that cling to love, enchanted by its possibilities. Love, set to music, sounds like this. Let your hands be my guide, let the music be your love song. (James Catchpole)