Tuesday, June 3, 2014

REVIEW: Ela Stiles - Ela Stiles

"Bold in concept, and stylish in execution" could be the capsule summary for Ela Stiles' self-titled debut solo album.  Is that just a writer's puffery for an album about which he's chosen to write?  Not in this case.  Ela Stiles is seven tracks of a cappella vocals which to some extent reminds the listener of an droning Asian music and to other extents suggests traditional Celtic music.  Even with a voice as lovely as Ms. Stiles possesses, there is an undeniable bravery in showcasing it in this fashion.  The Sydney songstress' voice becomes the melody and the rhythm, rising and falling, allowing space to surround the notes.  However, the album in notable for more than its singular approach.  The lead track, "Kumbh Mela", which takes its name from a mass Hindu pilgrimage, is a beautifully building track.  "Drone Transitions", the ten plus minute seventh and final track,  comprises one half of the album.  With Ela's multi-tracked vocals and pronounced droning instrumentation, it is perhaps the most striking song on the record.  But I also found it profoundly engaging and relaxing.  Tracks two through six are shorter vocal exercises that have their interesting elements, especially "Untitled Man", but the first and last tracks are, in my opinion, the best.

Unsurprisingly, the path chosen by Ela Stiles for this album differs from the music upon which she built her reputation in the Australian music scene.  Among other projects, she has been a member of Songs, and her Bushwalking project released No Enter last fall (review here)..  While Bushwalking utilized drone elements, it was fully amplified and more tribal in its drone mode, and also produced more standard pop pieces.  And Songs is known for its engaging guitar pop.

The album is out now via Bedroom Suck Records, which also deserves a nod for its vision in choosing to devote its resources to such a unique project.  For your evaluation, we've provided the lead track and a single edit for the closing track.  Give it a chance.

Bedroomsuck Records

No comments: