If you want to know how to do a release right, just ask the divine Kitchen label. Taking the Veil is the complete package: an art book, promoted by lovely videos, and a beautiful CD, enhanced by numerous guest luminaries. By releasing only a few works each year, Kitchen has continued to produce distinctive works of high quality, and Taking the Veil is one of its best.
The album’s title is taken to heart in Amber Ortolano’s photography. She presents women “imprisoned by their flow of thoughts and their dark imagination.” The veil “reveals and conceals,” as do the photos, the music and Reiner Mouthaan’s sublime video for “Simple Is Beautiful,” seen below. While listening and viewing, one gets the impression of something beyond the pale, outside the limits of understanding. Flocks form and reform in flight, like momentary fancies or fleeting ideas. Does the veil restrict or liberate the wearer? It all depends on the angle of view.
Producer and composer Hior Chronik lays down the gauntlet right away, launching the album with a sweetly mutated version of “London Bridge Is Falling Down.” This choice sets up a tension between the gentle and the ominous, ending with a phrase that sounds like, “the worst is here.” The vocalist is also the photographer. In fact, every track but one features a collaborator, including ACL site favorites Sophie Hutchings, Yasushi Yoshida, Aaron Martin, Luup, and Christoph Berg (Field Rotation).
Winter timbres dominate, as can be gleaned from the titles: “Cold Winter Morning”, “We Are All Snowflakes”, “When the Night Comes.” Winter is a time of solitude and introspection, of hidden landscapes and buried thoughts. Should one take the veil? Is it possible that one has taken the veil without knowing it? Are we all strangers, even to ourselves?
While the piano provides the core, the supporting cast deepens the emotion. The wise combination of glockenspiel and violin on “Small Wonders” conjures a dual sense of childlike wonder and adult loss. Luup’s flute lends “Cold Winter Morning” a tone of resigned inevitability. “Quiet Inside Your Chest” evokes a sense of having made it through the storm, thanks in great part to vinyl crackle and the comfort of Martin’s cello. Finally Chronik sits alone at the ivories on “The Ghost You Left Behind,” no longer haunted, having made his own peace with the veil.
The mastering of the album is superb: every note is clear, every electronic beat crisp. Kitchen’s Ricks Ang gets the credit for this, as well as for the art direction and design. Notes and snippets of song fly from speaker to speaker like the aforementioned flocks, leaving nary a rough edge, nary a stray bird. Taking the Veil is an example of what can happen when all of the people involved in a production, from the composer to the collaborator to the art team, share a singular vision. Listeners will enjoy delving into the mysteries of this shrouded sculpture. (Richard Allen)