Reading the press blurb that came through with this album, Siri Svegler is apparently "a successful actress", and her role in Hollywood blockbuster 'Troy', alongside Brad Pitt, is referenced. However, her IMDb filmography is hardly prolific, with only 3 roles listed. Perhaps she predominantly plies her acting chops on the stage rather than the screen? Unless success isn't measured by prolificacy here; rather, the nature of said three roles. Either way, this matters not, as it's Svegler's ventures in music under consideration in this review, which are really rather great.
Following on from 2013's 'Lost & Found' album, which press blurb claims garnered her "international attention and some awards", 'Awake' is her new platter of songs. My first taste of her music, as she's a new name on me, it's transpired to be a rather pleasant experience, on an album that's loaded with both surprises and delights. And it's not far into the album that the first surprise awaits...
From the opening couple of tracks, I thought I knew precisely how this album was going to play out. The press release talks of "autumnal melancholy" and "joie de vivre", so my listening expectations were primed to believe this would be firmly rooted in blueprint singer-songwriter territory, with down to mid-tempo tracks, characterised by a melancholic/optimistic duality. And I would've been content with such, such is Svegler's emotionally expressive and wonderfully ambivalent voice, complete with hints of both anguish and elation. The opening two tracks fit this paradigm. Gentle instrumentations - a tad twee - and with some beautiful vocals.
However, third track in and this is all blown away. It starts with a melancholic bias, minimalist, and captivatingly twee. I've been lulled into paradigmatic expectations but, a short way in, percussion is introduced to pick up the pace, which is when the song switches from melancholy to merriment, with an entirely different feel to what's come before. Jarring at first, but a nice surprise. It seems Svegler is a lady who thrives on spreading her creative wings beyond any sense of musical monlithism.
And the album continues along this diversified path, thwarting expectations along the way, as Svegler dips her toes into all kinds of genres, with varied instrumentations providing the perfect sonic backdrop to her evidently malleable voice. A finely crafted, exquisitely delivered piece of Americana is what we have with 'So Much Life'. 'Crossing Borders' has an Americana slant again, but with a choir brought into the final few bars, and some neat tribal rhythms at its climax. Elsewhere, 'Love Will Save the Day' is perhaps best described as a sultry lounge piece, whereas 'Circles' is firmly rooted in lounge jazz. 'Being the Change' has gospel undertones... and so on... Svegler's forged an ever-interesting, diverse sonic path for herself on 'Awake'. And, at the album's climax, with closer 'Only Time', we're taken right back to the beginning, with some more mid-tempo melancholy, coloured with uplifting vibes.
All in all, ‘Awake’ is a fantastic album, with strong compositions that meander through a range of styles with laidback ease. Everything's bound together by Svegler's very likeable, emotionally engaging and thoroughly captivating voice. Great songs, zero filler, well produced/mixed... a very nice autumnal delight.
Review by Mark Holmes
13th Sept 2019
1) Feels Like Falling
2) No Need to Define
3) Just for Now; 4) So Much Life
5) Crossing Borders
6) Love Will Save the Day
7) Angels Lullaby
9) Gravity Pull
10) Out of the Dark
11) Being the Change
12) Only Time
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"...Svegler dips her toes into all kinds of genres, with varied instrumentations providing the perfect sonic backdrop to her evidently malleable voice."