Julia Kent – Character (Leaf)

I was a huge fan of the last Julia Kent album, Green and grey, with its light, airy, almost pastoral, atmosphere, built around often unconventional cello parts looped and layered ingeniously. This, her third album, is very different, full of rich, dense textures. The sombre mood makes for quite a stark contrast with its predecessor, and although field recordings and a range of cello sounds play a part, that mood comes courtesy of long, fully-bowed deep notes at the core, with melodies strung over mainly minor keys. There’s a depth of emotion again though, which is a tribute to Kent’s sense of adventure with the instrument.

‘Transportation’ has a powerful swing and pull to it, upper register pizzicato and slapped bow parts playing around the edges of a lower main theme. ‘Flicker’ has a particular European soundtrack feel, layers of intertwining phrases combining to convey a wealth of personality, while struck piano strings (a motif that recurs throughout the album to great effect) emerge as an insistent secondary character.

‘Tourbillon’ is the most rhythmic piece, a bed of building percussion underneath a series of sawing, melancholic cello parts – it’s the album’s driving, memorable centrepiece and is reminiscient a bit of Hauschka’s work on the Salon des Amateurs album. ‘Fall’ has a formidable sense of tragedy about it, wave sounds lapping as dominant bass notes create a powerful undercurrent. ‘Kingdom’ follows with something of an electronic, avant garde opera about it, before the album settles back into its sombre pattern with ‘Only child’ and ‘Intent’.

The closing track, ‘Nina and Oscar’, is the best saved til last, a majestic, keening cello melody with piano support, gathering strands brilliantly to form an emotional finish.

It’s a swoonsome end to a lush and magnificently arranged album, which despite being instrumental carries a multitude of voices and personalities – like the title suggests, really.

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