Tara Jane O'Neil - In Circles
Quarterstick by Eric Nielsen 10.20.06
Sweet open pleasure, filled with wide spaces and a sure folk voice that ranks up with all the great voices, In Circles wanders around open fields, into barns and up with the birds. This album is best listened to through headphones to catch all of the subtleties of instruments and panning.
The CD starts with an instrumental piece, Primer, that sets the ambience for the rest. The melancholy confidence sweeps you in. Most songs are driven by a nice minor key guitar structure and fleshed out with some beautifully simple guitar lines. Strong but straight drumming with nice bass drum sounds remind me of some Songs: Ohia, though the structure is much more fleshed. The voice rounds out the album which is mixed at an impeccable level. A flute that sounds like a gentle version of Bardo Pond floats embedded in the mixes; a way only listening with headphones can be appreciated. Also includes piano, violin, banjo, slide guitars.
Tara recorded this album with her mobile studio, Cloud Mountain, in various empty wooden houses around her hometown of Portland, seeking to capture the ambience of a life close to the truth. The truth of simplicity and sadness, of wisdom and confidence. The instrumentation is rounded out with wonderful levels of reverb. There's none of that My Morning Jacket holier than thou sound. And, you get a more honest feeling of spirituality.
Her musical history is very rich, scoring tracks for film, theater and art installations. Working musically with Ida, Retsin and Rodan (some of whom appear on this record), Tara is a prolific, visual artist, recording and producing her solo projects. This disc is subtly rich with gentle sounds of birds and the natural ambience of her mind.
This 10 song disc floats between simple tight songs and ambient soundscapes with just the right balance to make it feel like you want more. Most songs are short with a similar approach to the voice. They include nice downturns and float like a sinking cloud mountain over a rain filled Portland sky, falling down upon you in a slow motion drift.
Put this album on before you go to bed and watch the stars move across the sky outside your window. The voice lulls you as the instruments sit so lightly on your eardrum, vibrating it in a way a city at night or a moving car can hypnotize you to sleep. The songs move for a while and then finish ever so delicately without wasting any time. The ambience is proportioned into the piece and balanced with the singing in a way to provide a moving entity like a river.
Sometimes sounding country, folk, eastern, ambient and soulful, this is a nice record to add to your collection. Tara Jane is a great, quiet artist walking her path with confidence and ease. A different approach than most of what we hear these days. And somehow an inspiring CD.
Tara Jane plays the Che Cafe on November 11th.
Tara Jane O'Neil mp3 from In Circles
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