V/A ~ The Sea at the End of Her String (Exclusive Stream!)

Three female artists, one label, one record, one tour.  The Sea at the End of Her String tour starts Thursday and is partnered with this limited vinyl EP, containing new music from Resina, Shida Shahabi and Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch, all of whom are celebrating new releases on the FatCat/130701 imprint.  And these are anything but throwaway tracks; each would have been welcome on the larger projects, but together they make a statement about strength through cooperation.  Smart sequencing helps the project to flow as a single entity, on to its surprising (and very different) closer.

Warsaw cellist Resina has become one of our favorite artists over the last two years, cementing her reputation with the release of Traces early this summer.  “Round” may be a bit less dark than the material on that album, but this underlines the wisdom behind its inclusion here.  The primary melody is played upfront, but the support (all cello!) arrives in waves of angle and loop.  By the fifth minute, it sounds like a small ensemble; in the sixth, the background becomes the foreground, the architecture revealed.  “Aguirre” is a more restrained statement, accumulating weight as it unfolds.  Remaining quiet throughout, it makes a worthy counterpart to “Round,” demonstrating the breadth of Resina’s timbre.

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Shida Shihabi is a recent signee to the roster, catching the label’s ear with her score to the short Swedish film Schoolyard Blues.  The Swedish-Iranian pianist/composer is set to release her debut album Home next month, so her positioning on this tour is crucial.  Part of the artist’s appeal is her inclusion of miked piano sounds; the roughness of creaks and taps makes “Chloris” sound intimate and immediate.  “Flora” continues this approach while adding flourishes that reflect its title. We’re confident that the warmth of this performer will will people over.

Hot on the heels of her album Époques, French composer Emilie-Levienaise-Farrouch (living in London) keeps the energy going with “What Remains” and “Layers of Sentiments.”  To this reviewer, these pieces are better than anything on her recent album, a mild shock considering the fact that tour EPs are usually throwaways.  “What Remains” finds the perfect balance between piano, strings and electronics, no single passage or instrument elbowing its way to the front.  “Layers of Sentiments” is introduced with layers of drone that give way to sprightly piano, an exercise in dynamic contrast.  When the drone re-enters, it’s louder and thicker, but it’s still made to feel welcome.

Warning: do not use this EP for relaxation unless you need an alarm clock!  The final track is a shocker that makes conceptual sense but kills the mood.  In this piece, label founder DH (Dave Howell) records the sound of poor pianos being “fly-tipped” into a “Piano Graveyard (at) Severn Beach.”  Goodbye, sad pianos!  If you would like to adopt a broken-down, used and potentially irreparable ivory instrument, please contact Dave ~ he will likely be able to direct you to the proper place.  Otherwise, over the cliff they go!  The piece makes for a fascinating, although unsetting closer.  How to take one’s mind off off such executions?  That’s obvious ~ see the tour!  (Richard Allen)

Available here

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