Julia Kent demonstrates growing unease on Asperities

AsperitiesAlthough there's a chance the name Julia Kent doesn’t ring a bell, as a singer songwriter she really has been everywhere over the past ten years. Kent has written several scores, had her music appear in notable films – some may remember Paolo Sorrentino’s This Must Be The Place – and worked on two Antony and the Johnsons albums, all the while composing music for theatre and dance performances. As one of the world’s most renowned cellists, she has also developed a successful solo career, which now sees its fourth installment in 2015’s Asperities.

Yet another Julia Kent album that questions the use of a cello in a contemporary musical landscape; Asperities is a record of growing unease, and one that combines phantasmagorical droning sounds with bold electronic arrangements. In that sense, "Terrain" works particularly well – the terrifying electronics suddenly disappear, only to make a comeback later in the song. It's as though the track has been taken straight out of a horror movie’s climax.

Probably a perk taken away from her cinematographic work, Kent’s music succeeds in creating a whole new imaginary world for each song.  Her song titles suggest both political turmoil and a sort of journey taking place – "Invitation to the Voyage", "Flag of No Country", "Terrain"– and it is not hard to construct a narrative of your own by following the explicit sentimental overtones of her work. While there is a frightening atmosphere surrounding the whole album –"Empty States", the aforementioned "Terrain"– it is Asperities' melancholy what ultimately defines the songs and the overall sound of the record.

As the album’s emotional centrepiece, "The Leopard" is the song that best exemplifies the largely suggestive nature of Asperities. On its own, it is simply an outstanding piece of music, one that pushes on strings and demands a reaction. As a part of a bigger whole, it conveys the twisted emotional expression of Kent’s music, the deep cello sounds evoking a train in motion and the melody highlighting a deep aching instead of hiding it.

It is quite a difficult task to create such powerful images while refusing to add words to music, yet Kent manages to express herself imaginatively and apparently effortlessly, as if all she needs to communicate is her cello. Her ability to merge electronic with classical sounds is definitely unique, but if Asperities shines on its own, it is because of its anguished melodies and the songs’ growing turbulence.

Release: 30th November 2015, Leaf Label

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