(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

CD review - Juliette Commagere, The Procession (2010)

For all of its pop touches, The Procession is a surprisingly deep album. Juliette Commagere melds pop, new wave, and electronic elements with subtle, slightly dark lyrics. She also meddles with formulaic pop structure to create a sense of orchestration. Through all of the this, Commagere's voice is the anchor. Her clear enunciation and smooth tone suggest training. She sings deliberately, without surrendering to emotion or losing herself in the song. She's not cold, though. Sometimes, you can hear a knowing wink or a breathy joy. Impact shares that joy against a bouncy Blondie-style pop beat, serving as one of the cheery moments on the album.

But it's songs like Hovering in the Wings that show off Commagere's complexity. The simple piano intro sets the hook. Then the music veers between new wave verses filled with tightly reined tension and a chorus that casually surrenders concern and control. The lyrics are oblique and conflicting, alluding to some kind of inner demon. Here's the second verse and chorus:
I let it hunt for me harvesting my dreams
(It's down, down where you want to go)
Tangled in a jumble of my needs
(It's down, down where the water flows)
Buying a way, I try to break
From a corner of the bedroom
I can hear it breathe, hovering in the wings
Every time that I turn around,
Red, gold, up and come out - the light is changing
And all my fears are taking form
Move right in and make yourselves at home
It's comforting to be alone - laughing while the light is changing
Until you follow the words, the chorus sounds cheery, but the lyrics show she's giving in to the darkness of the verse. Commagere's voice also shifts with the mood, going from a darker version of Blondie to a lush Karen Carpenter on the chorus. The arrangement is masterful, with the verse coming to a precipice and falling suddenly into the release of the chorus.

The title cut, The Procession, shows a different flavor of complexity. Here, the opening is soft, creating a sense of open space. Sparse parts slowly fit together in layers. After the chorus, a fluid keyboard line like a slide guitar signals an uptempo shift to a more majestic sound. This deflates slightly as it returns to the chorus.

As a whole, The Procession has an interesting arrangement as well. The songs progress from pop oriented, keyboard tunes to more complex and harder-to-classify tracks, and last few songs are more experimental, with some forays into electronic pop. This makes The Procession an engaging listening experience with some surprises. Think cinnamon spiced coffee.

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