Violinist Simon Goff delves into post-rock titles and electronic rhythms, making Vale a true cross-genre affair. Viewing his collaborators and tour partners, it all makes sense; the composer drinks in the best parts of the world and rearranges them into sonic textures.
Lead single “I Filled my Lungs with the Necessary Air, and Yelled!” is an imperative statement, Goff’s violin covered in static like a cloud of smog. The tug of war is akin to a person seeking breath, a common battle in the past year. But once one has arrived at cleaner air, with healthier lungs, one may yell like an Alpine hiker at the summit. The piece makes a soft descent: and after this, a still, small voice.
Although sequenced differently on the album, follow-up single “Wooden Islands” flows well from this point, with frantic violin and furtive tapping. The percussion briefly becomes the focal point before the strings take over once more, a louder line demanding the attention mid-piece. And then a wild, brief glissando.
While the extra elements are the draw, the album’s staying power is found in Goff’s strength: his chosen instrument. Despite all the pulsing ferocity of “A Process in the Weather of the Heart,” the string-filled finale is the focal point. The same holds true for the early moments of the title track, which yields a memorable melodic line, amplified in the center. The drone holds back, feeling comfortable in a supporting role.
This being said, “Elowen” is the album’s literal and figurative centerpiece. The five-note motif sticks in the head even when the violin pursues other melodies. The soft percussion recedes to the glen, hiding behind the elm. Then both surge at once, producing the set’s most memorable sequence. While the title is Vale, the album makes its greatest impression on the peaks. (Richard Allen)